26/09/12 – Deenihan Launches Woodland Heritage Booklet
Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will today, Wednesday 26 September 2012, launch Ireland’s Woodland Heritage, a guide to Ireland’s native woodlands. The booklet, published by the Department, seeks to introduce the public to the beauty and diversity of our native woodlands and provides valuable background information for use in our schools.
Commenting on the launch, Minister Deenihan said: “Despite the small area they cover, our native woodlands contain a diversity of woodland types and a great variety of plant and animal life. Properly managed, woodlands provide valuable timber as well as conserving an immense array of biodiversity.”
The booklet begins with a definition and brief account of the history of our native woodlands since the last Ice Age and outlines their present distribution. Once covering much of the country, today they cover just over 1% of the land area and most woodlands are small – average size 6ha – and are highly fragmented. The booklet continues with an examination of the woodland habitat and structure, including a brief description of each woodland type and the variety of plant and animal life found within the woodlands.
Minister Deenihan continued: “It is important to conserve our native woodlands, which are of European significance otherwise we will lose this valuable and rich resource. My Department, through the National Parks and Wildlife Service, manages over 30 native woodlands covering more than 6,000 ha in nature reserves and National Parks. Ireland is also obliged to protect certain woodland types – oak, alluvial, yew and bog woodland – under the Habitats Directive and there are 10,000 ha designated as SACs.”
In the past our native woodlands were carefully managed for timber, which was used for a variety of purposes – construction, furniture, household and farmyard utensils – while oak woods were harvested for bark. Over the last 50 years or so, however, traditional management has declined and today many woods have been abandoned and are now subject to threats from invasive alien species, such as rhododendron and laurel, from overgrazing, or simply clearance for agriculture or housing.
Minister Deenihan paid tribute to the Forest Service and staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other organisations who help to develop the Native Woodland Scheme providing grants to landowners to restore and plant native woodlands. “This initiative has resulted in 11,000ha of native woodland being restored and an additional 1,000ha of new woodlands being planted” added Minister Deenihan.
This booklet is available free of charge from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and further information can be found at their website www.npws.ie