EU forestry cash "harming Irish environment"

Pressure group accuses government of misusing EU money to plant "harmful" conifers

EU funds are being misused to fund conifer plantations in Ireland which have a negative impact on the environment, an Irish NGO has alleged. Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) says that the semi-state Irish forestry board Coillte has used I£30.9m (Ecu39m) of EU money to plant mostly conifers. FIE said Dublin's policy of planting 80% conifers in new plantations was harmful to the environment as these trees, when planted on acid soils common in Ireland, can produce levels of acidity which can be dangerous to wildlife. The group has written to the European Court of Auditors - which examines EU spending to see if it gets value for money - claiming that the EU money has come from a fund which is specifically aimed at encouraging farmers, rather than forestry organisations, to plant trees. A Court official confirmed to ENDS Daily that the organisation was looking into the FIE allegations and might consider including Ireland in an audit of the EU's forestry funding scheme that is currently under way.

Follow Up:
Friends of the Irish Environment, tel: +353 27 73025; EU Court of Auditors, tel: +352 43 981.

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