Irish environmental forest standard adopted

Standard designed to enable certification under either of two main international accreditation schemes

Irish movement towards more sustainable forestry practices gathered momentum this week with publication of a new forest standard by the marine and natural resources ministry. The development is being seen as an important step towards Ireland's goal of increasing forest cover from the present 9% of land area to 17% by 2030.

The result of several years' negotiations involving industry, NGOs, researchers and government officials, the standard addresses a wide range of issues, including water quality, biological diversity, carbon sequestration, the social functions of forestry and encouragement of wood production. It is supported by a code of "best forest practice" - which minister of state Hugh Byrne claimed to be a European first - as well as a series of environmental guidelines.

Some 70% of Ireland's forests belong to the majority state-owned company Coillte. These are already going through sustainability certification with a view to accreditation under the global Forest Stewardship Council scheme. As with a similar UK standard finalised last year, however, Ireland's is designed to offer producers a choice between this and other schemes attesting to sustainable management practices - including the rival Pan European Forest Certification Council.

The standard was welcomed by the Irish Timber Growers Association, representing the other 30% of largely privately owned smaller forests. However, an official told ENDS Daily there were concerns about costs and bureaucracy. "A balance has to be struck over environmental needs and if the costs are excessive it simply won't happen," he said.

Follow Up:
Irish marine and natural resources ministry, tel: +353 1 678 5444; Irish Timber Growers Association, tel: +353 1 676 4783.

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