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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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'We have to do more': Extinction Rebellion stage protest in Dublin against commercial forestry

The protest took place as Forestry Industries Ireland held a conference inside the National Botanic Gardens.

9344 Protests_90575065 Extinction Rebellion protesters at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin today Source: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

EXTINCTION REBELLION CLIMATE activists staged a protest outside the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin today warning against an increase in commercial forestry. 

Extinction Rebellion Ireland is arguing that commercial forestry is using the country’s climate emergency as an excuse to endanger biodiversity by planting non-native trees such as the Sitka Spruce. 

The Sitka Spruce is native to the Pacific northwest coast of North America and it is the predominant species used in Irish forestry. 

The group is claiming that current practices of planting and managing Sitka plantations are detrimental to Ireland’s wildlife, in particular to many species of birds and insects already threatened by extinction. 

Speaking to reporters at the protest, Extinction Rebellion member Manuel Salazar said: “We are having a protest against the government because we want to highlight the fact that commercial forestry is increasing, especially the planting of Sitka Spruce trees which are not native from our land.”

The Extinction Rebellion movement has repeatedly brought London in the UK to a standstill in recent months, leading to hundreds of arrests.

The movement was formed late last year and has grown rapidly.

In April, the group in Ireland held a major protest in Dublin city centre and blocked O’Connell Street bridge. 

Forestries conference

Today’s protest took place as Forestry Industries Ireland’s ‘Real Solutions to Ireland’s Climate Emergency’ conference was held inside the gardens. 

“The Minister for Climate [Action] is here, Richard Bruton. We are basically here to highlight this to everybody that it’s important to keep our biodiversity and start foresting our country again,” Salazar said.

“Forestry in Ireland is very low, just 10%, compared to the European average that is 32% and we have to do more than that,” he said.

The protestors interrupted Minister Bruton’s speech during the conference. 

The conference heard from industry and environment experts that managed forests in Ireland have the potential to provide 20% of Ireland’s climate change solution and are the most scalable way to help the country deal with its climate change challenges. 

Forest Industries Ireland chairman Brian Murphy said that “well-managed commercial forests have huge ability to absorb CO2 and also benefit rural Ireland”.

“Last year, our wood products locked away as much CO2 as was produced by all the licensed cars in Dublin or all the households in Cork, Waterford and Kerry combined,” Murphy said.

“Our managed forests grow extremely fast, producing valuable straight trees that literally gobble up harmful CO2 from our skies to help them grow.”

IMG_1791 Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Dublin's Botanic Gardens today Source: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

What does Extinction Rebellion want? 

Extinction Rebellion is calling for “the restoration of existing native forests and a commitment from the Irish government to set aside large areas of land for rewilding and mature native woodland”. 

“Any commercial forestry should consist of mixed native broadleaf species and should benefit local farmers rather than foreign investors,” the group said in a statement. 

“Grants to farmers to plant biodiversity enhancing trees on farmland, which will have a real chance at reducing the carbon levels that cause global warming, should be greatly increased and farmers should be encouraged to do so,” it said. 

“Forests should never be planted on the habitat of our most endangered birds and animals.”

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