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Irish Forestry Certification Fiasco
Thursday November 30, 2006 18:07 by Woodsman - Woodland League
Critique of the Irish Forestry Certification Process
The future of forestry in Ireland will be affected by the National Forest Standard being put together by the Irish Forest Certification Initiative (IFCI) steering group that is now at the stage of third and final draft. Big forestry concerns are trying to push through a weak standard so that they can easily get their Forest Stewardship Certification with little regard for social and environmental factors (e.g. pollution of water courses, landslides such as at Derrybrien, native trees and biodiversity, landscape character). Consultation with the public has been limited due to lack of information and advertising of meetings. If a weak standard is accepted, then we can expect more of the same Sitka Spruce plantations raping our natural environment for years to come - and more of Coillte's selling off of state lands in their control to make up for the lack of profitability from Sitka Spruce - and more pollution and landslides.
Remnant of native woodland
A meeting in Galway on 28th November gave information about the third draft National Forest Standard produced by the steering group of the Irish Forest Certification Initiative (IFCI). This was a public consultation meeting presenting the draft for people to make submissions for inclusion in the Standard. Six people attended - none of these had seen or heard the advertisements which IFCI claimed to have placed in national and local media - all had heard by chance via email and word of mouth. The suggestion was made that such a public meeting should have been better advertised due to the significance of the document. Tony Mannion was the sole representative of IFCI (Economic chamber) present and he claimed that budget constraints didn't allow further advertising and he agreed that it should have been more widely advertised. A further suggestion from the floor was that inexpensive advertising could be done through Coillte and Forest Service contacts and local newspapers.
Some background on Forestry Certification
At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, a number of forest principles were enunciated to address the lack of progress in halting the destruction of the world’s forest resources (Agenda 21 Forest Principles).
The four programme areas in Agenda 21 concerned with combating deforestation.
A. Sustaining the multiple roles and functions of all types of forests, forest lands and woodlands
B. Enhancing the protection, sustainable management and conservation of all forests, and the greening of
degraded areas, through forest rehabilitation afforestation, reforestation and other rehabilitative means
C. Promoting efficient utilization and assessment to recover the full valuation of the goods and services
provided by forests, forest lands and woodlands
D. Establishing and/or strengthening capacities for the planning, assessment and systematic observations of forests and related programmes, projects and activities, including commercial trade and processes
The Process in Ireland
The Irish Forestry Certification Initiative Ltd. (IFCI), is a Company established to develop a national forest management standard, which is based upon the principles and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is an international network to promote responsible management of the world's forests, which has developed ten principles and associated criteria that cover a wide range of issues relevant to social, economic and environmental concerns that are influenced by Agenda 21 Forest Principles. The FSC process for developing forest management standards includes stakeholders from all sectors involved in forestry. National standards for forestry management are formulated and agreed by consensus by participating forestry stakeholders. It is important to note that certification is a voluntary scheme (though has proven very successful internationally because it provides access to higher value markets), and is entirely separate from State forestry policy.
The main objectives of IFCI as outlined in the Memorandum and Articles of Association are:
· To advance sustainable forest management in Ireland
· To develop a certifiable forest management standard for Irish forests based upon the principles and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
· To engage the general public and relevant interest groups in the development of the Irish FSC forest management standard
Report on the Meeting
The meeting was organised by Mr Brian Tobin of UCD (carbon sequestration researcher) who was taking notes on behalf of IFCI with a facilitator also employed. Mr Mannion gave a slide presentation listing the principles and criteria of the draft Forest Standard. These are available in full in the printed document and on the website. At this point a stakeholder asked if proper minutes were being taken and would they be available in the public domain. Mr Tobin said that it would be up to IFCI how his notes were used.
IFCI steering group were set up with equal Social, Environmental and Economic chambers of four members each - it was remarked that representatives of the Social and Environmental chambers ought to be present at this meeting to answer queries from the public. Mr Mannion said that there was currently only one person on the Social chamber and more were being sought. One stakeholder asked if the chambers would be fully formed when it comes to assessing submissions - Mr Mannion said that he was hopeful that this would be the case. When asked if stakeholders making new submissions would have feedback and opportunity to re-submit, he said that this would hopefully be possible.
Mayor of Galway, Niall O'Brollochain, in attendance, enquired during the presentation as to how the IFCI could help resolve current issues where forestry has a big impact and where the buck was being passed between various bodies with none accepting responsibility for instances of serious pollution, etc, in a Galway river catchment area. He personally is engaged in these issues as a councillor and is looking for a way forward. Mr Mannion stated that there are many impacts and it is difficult to pinpoint who is responsible. From the floor it was pointed out that the IFCI Grievance Procedure should have dealt with this via their contact person and, furthermore, the recent EU judgement called for a halt to clear-felling in upland peat areas (where too much forestry had been planted against EU forestry funding guidelines). This has led to the recent moratorium on clear-felling in these areas.
At the end of the presentation, questions were invited. Mr Martin Collins from Derrybrien Development Society Ltd expressed total frustration with the chasm that exists between the presentation of the aspirations of the Standard with the reality that his community sees on the ground in the most heavily planted monoculture coniferous region in Ireland. Derrybrien suffered a major landslide during the development of a windfarm on a Coillte site which involved major clear-felling. He went on to say that their experience of consultation left a lot to be desired. They tried to engage with all relevant parties and ended up in the High Court where they still failed to obtain security for their community into the future. Mr Collins said that he could not understand how such an eco-label of international import could apply to the reality that surrounds the Derrybrien community.
Another stakeholder pointed out that the draft Standard only required consultation with "the local people" which, it was stated, could be done through local elected representatives - this meant that community groups and individuals could be easily by-passed. Mr Mannion agreed that this was apparently the case and he could not see a suitable way around it. He also said that, not wishing to downplay the Derrybrien situation, he had personally witnessed far worse scenarios in his travels as an international forester. He then went on to say that a representative of the Derrybrien group joining the Social panel of IFCI might be a way towards resolving some of the issues.
A final comment from an ex-member of the IFCI Environment panel present was that, due to the evidential lack of notification to the general public, highlighted by the advert in the Examiner (21st October) giving dates of these meetings as being in October rather than November, and the record of just one person attending the Cork meeting (for an area of a million population), coupled with the flawed history of real consultation of this process to date (which included the 2nd Draft Standard), the process should be deemed null and void. He said that a fresh start to this process is needed from the level of the 1st Draft Standard, which would respectfully incorporate the views and concerns of the more that 100 submissions from social and environmental stakeholders which were gathered and presented to the IFCI for the 2nd Draft Standard in a document (Submission on Sustainable Forestry in Ireland) coordinated by VOICE in 2000, funded by the Heritage Council and influenced by their 1996 policy document (Heritage council forest policy document by the late Freda Rowntree from 1996 which calls for 50:50; conifer :native broadleaf as the model for Sustainable Forest Management [S.F.M.] in this state). Therefore there would be no need to reinvent the wheel and also, stakeholders were now much more familiar with the process and to incorporate some of the concerns and desires of these submissions would enhance the Forest Standard for Ireland.
Mr Mannion stated that these submissions which formed the basis of the aforementioned document had been looked at but had not been responded to and he did not know the current whereabouts of them.
IFCI website : http://www.irishforestcertification.com/index.html FSC website : http://www.fsc.org/en/
Forestry in Ireland - a citizen's perspective - The Woodland League : http://www.woodlandleague.org/documents/ForestryInIrela...M.pdf
Coford Connects - Forest Certification - What does it mean for Irish forestry :
To contact IFCI: Ruth McGrath, Email: email@example.com Phone: 087 2803010