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NI environment minister pledges massive tree-planting drive

Words: Roger Milne
Tree planting / Shutterstock_580933222

Agriculture and environment minister Edwin Poots has announced a programme to plant 18 million trees over the next decade – 10 for every person in Northern Ireland.

The ‘Forests for our Future’ programme represents the country’s most ambitious plan to develop the province’s forests and contribute to sustainable economic growth.

Currently forest cover in Northern Ireland sits at 8 per cent – well behind the UK average of 13 per cent.

Poots said: “We plant only 200 hectares of woodland per year, instead of the 900 hectares recommended recently by the Committee on Climate Change.

“More forests and more trees will help to mitigate climate change. Furthermore, planting more trees will make a significant contribution to Northern Ireland’s sustainable economic growth – the forestry sector generates about £60 million per annum from timber production activity, sustaining approximately 1,000 rural jobs. A further £60-£80 million is generated in the local economy from forest-based recreation and tourism. I want to further enhance that through this programme.”    

The minister explained that existing publicly owned land, including local government land, has the “greatest potential” for woodland creation in the short term.

"I have written to ministerial colleagues and chief executives of local councils seeking their support and commitment to make public land available for tree planting.”

Poots announced he would set up an Afforestation Forum to develop an action plan for increasing afforestation that he would oversee personally.

Image credit | Shutterstock