Stakeholder Field Day

Coillte's first stakeholder field day for 2003 took place on June 4th, and was well attended by various stakeholders. The first of these days took place in association with the European Green Days initiative as part of Green Week 2003, an initiative run by the Environment DG of the European Commission.

The day began with a visit to Belleek Woodlands near Ballina in Co. Mayo. Much work has been conducted recently in this wood thanks to the Neighbourwood Scheme, which is a project that is sponsored by the Forest Service of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, in partnership with Coillte and the local community group, the Belleek Woodland Enhancement Committee. This 78-hectare woodland of Belleek is located on the outskirts of Ballina town in County Mayo. Because of the proximity of this woodland to the town, it has been used as a recreational resource by the local community for many years. Over time, however, this woodland became neglected, through the over-use of the park and the lack of funding to maintain this amenity resource to its original standard. In 1999, Coillte approached the residents of Belleek and Faranoo with a proposal to establish a community-based approach to managing this resource into the future. What once was primarily a production forest is now being transformed into a sustainable recreational resource through the concerted effort of both Coillte and the local community. Joint management plans for Belleek have been developed, and funding has been secured to conduct the work outlined in the plan. Since then, more than 22,000 trees of 14 different species have been been planted, over 90% of which were broadleaves. Three forest avenues, five stone walls, a lime-kiln, and a number of stone bridges have already been restored. The picnic area by the river Moy has been re-created and all furniture and signage has been replaced. In addition, a monument to the original landlords of Belleek Estate has been fully restored. Future plans include upgrading of other walks, and restoration of and other buildings and monuments on the estate. In addition, conifers that will be felled in the future will be replaced by broadleaves.

In the afternoon, the group travelled to Eskeragh blanket bog to hear background, actions and events planned for the EU-funded LIFE-Nature Blanket Bog Restoration project which is currently being progressed by Coillte at 14 sites throughout the company. Raised bogs and blanket bogs are priority restoration habitats for Coillte, as they are listed as priority habitats for conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.

In 2001, Coillte lodged an application for EU funding under the LIFE-Nature Programme, to implement peatland restoration work on blanket bog habitats on Coillte's land. In 2002, approval was given to restore 1,212 hectares of blanket bog on 14 sites, located mostly in Co. Mayo. These sites have been impacted by afforestation, drainage and/or grazing and lie within, or adjacent to proposed Special Areas of Conservation.

This is the first of three field days which we will hold in 2003 and we will keep stakeholders informed in this regard both directly and through this newsletter.

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