Local group challenges permission to plant ‘alien species’ of Sitka spruce at Co Leitrim site
A local environmental group has filed a High Court action to overturn a license for a forestry project in Co Leitrim involving the planting of 12 hectares with the “exotic species” of Sitka spruce.
Save Leitrim Environmental and Biodiversity Group CLG expresses concern about “the negative impact of forestry and the monocultural Sitka spruce plantation on local communities”.
He claims that such projects “completely erase” the landscape over a very large area and “completely erase the cultural landscape which had evolved over several centuries, if not millennia”.
Such a plantation has resulted in the “displacement of a large number of the rural population” who “cannot live comfortably” with large tracts of woodland which are “dark and threatening”, “wipe out all life on the forest floor” and create “a humid environment and a depressing atmosphere in the whole area,” he says.
The social interaction necessary to maintain a rural population is “impossible given the physical and psychological impact of this plantation”, it is argued. For reasons such as forest land has a higher commercial yield than agricultural land, local people “cannot compete with forestry when it comes to building sustainable farms that could provide a reasonable standard of living. “, we say.
The group is also concerned about the impact on existing fauna and ecosystems in the region which contains “some of the most important ecosystems in the EU”.
These are now “threatened by the introduction of an exotic species, the Sitka spruce”, it is claimed. The boundary of the Boleybrack Mountain Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is less than 1 km from the proposed development, while the Lough Gill SAC is located approximately 3.5 km from the land and is connected to it via the River Scardan in which development land will be drained. , it is claimed.
Evan O’Donnell BL, appointed by O’Connell Clarke Solicitors, for the group, this week obtained permission from Madam Justice Niamh Hyland to initiate judicial review proceedings regarding the license issued to Barry O’Hagan for a afforestation project on a 13.34 hectare site. in Meenimore, Dromahair, Co Leitrim.
The project proposes to plant Sitka spruces on 12 hectares, to which will be added 0.5 hectares of birch and other hardwoods. The surroundings of the dwelling on the site will not be vegetated.
The proceedings are directed against the Forestry Appeals Committee, Ireland and the Attorney General, with Mr. O’Hagan as a party to the notice.
The respondents, who were notified of the application last year, did not object to the granting of leave and a hearing date for the full action will be set at a later date.
In the action, the group is asking for orders overturning the committee’s confirmation of the minister’s decision of May 14, 2020 to issue the permit.
The ground for challenge includes allegations that the committee failed to comply with the obligations under the Habitats Directive, including the completion of an adequate Stage 1 screening and screening assessment of the State 1 concerning development.
The Respondent State, it is argued, has failed to comply with obligations under European law to make regulations regarding the provision of advice, information, consultations with prescribed bodies and procedures for adequate and appropriate assessment. These alleged shortcomings, they argue, mean that there has been no proper transposition of the obligations of the Habitatas and Environmental Impact Assessment Directives.