Call for new strategy to restore our woodlands

Calls have been made for a new strategy to restore our local woodlands.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 12:07 pm

It follows ‘ground-breaking’ research on NI forests by the Woodland Trust.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, sponsor of draft Environment and Nature Restoration legislation at Stormont, said that the scarcity of local woodlands is contributing to a biodiversity crisis.

Party colleague Patsy McGlone MLA, a member of the Stormont Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, called for a new strategy to incentivise greater numbers of land managers to invest in ecosystem services.

Dolores Kelly .

Mrs Kelly said: “Woodland coverage in Northern Ireland is among the worst across these islands.

“Our forests and wooded areas provide a much needed break from our increasingly urbanised lives and there’s no doubt that, over the last 12 months, people have started to reconnect with our natural environment.

“But woodlands are primarily an important habitat for plant and animal species that are being squeezed by human encroachment.

“It is a shocking assessment that just 8% of land here is forest.

“The stripping back of what was once a temperate rainforest in this part of the world is creating a severe biodiversity crisis that needs to be addressed immediately,” said Mrs Kelly.

“That is why I am seeking to give statutory underpinning to biodiversity targets that will include the restoration of our rich woodlands.”

Mr McGlone said: “Woodlands are incredibly important as a habitat and source of biodiversity, particularly in rural communities.

“But they also provide an important way to absorb excess carbon in our atmosphere, helping to address the climate crisis.

“The Executive should urgently consider a robust new strategy to incentivise land managers to invest in ecosystem services, like managing woodlands to increase our carbon sequestration capacity.

“As the future of land management remains in flux as a result of Brexit, we have an opportunity to invest in ecologically positive practice that restores nature and secures the future of rural businesses,” said the Mid Ulster SDLP MLA.

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