COMHAIRLE CONTAE ÁTHA CLIATH THEAS
SOUTH DUBLIN COUNTY COUNCIL

MEETING OF SOUTH DUBLIN COUNTY COUNCIL

Monday, September 14, 2020

QUESTION NO. 31

QUESTION: Councillor F. Timmons

To ask the Chief Executive to comment and report on The Minister for Agriculture and the Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry at the departments new scheme to fund the creation of new native woodland on public lands and how the council proposes to meet this need including preserving current Woodlands already in SDCC.

REPLY:

The purpose of the Woodland Creation on Public Lands  Scheme is to encourage Public Bodies to establish new native woodlands on suitable bare land.

Native woodlands are an important part of Ireland’s natural heritage, history and culture, and are unique in terms of their biodiversity. They are home to specialised woodland animals, birds, insects and plants, including red squirrel, pine marten, great spotted woodpecker, narrow-leaved helleborine and wood millet, to name but a few. They provide numerous ecosystem services, including the protection and enhancement of water quality, wider habitat linkage, landscape enhancement, opportunities for outdoor recreation and interpretation, and carbon capture.

The Scheme aims to conserve nature by developing permanent, non-commercial woodlands on public land that will deliver the following benefits:

Recreation of lost native woodland habitats, rich in biodiversity and cultural significance.

Reverse the fragmentation of other habitats and the loss of biodiversity corridors within the wider landscape.

Carbon sequestration from forests that will exist in perpetuity.

Protection and enhancement of water and associated aquatic ecosystems.

Provision of attractive woodland amenities, to promote health and well-being and opportunities for outdoor learning amongst local communities.

Enhancing air quality in urban and peri-urban areas.

Soil protection and the reclamation of former landfill and brownfield sites.

The first step in the process is to identify a potential site or sites within the public land bank, which if developed into a native woodland, would advance SDCC’s own targets regarding the Sustainable Development Goals, corporate social responsibility, climate targets, etc. The site must also be suitable from a ‘silvicultural’ perspective to grow a new woodland, and also from an environmental perspective, so that negative impacts of other valuable habitats and species are avoided.

South Dublin County Council have recently commenced a Green Infrastructure Strategy and a Parks and Open Spaces Strategy for the county that will map areas of Green Infrastructure at a strategic level and help the council identify the optimal locations for retention and protection of existing elements of Green Infrastructure (including woodlands), the reinforcement of existing elements that require augmentation or the creation of new Green Infrastructure links and hubs (which can also include woodlands). The Parks and Open Spaces strategy will also examine our public lands at the county wide level and make similar recommendations on how we best develop and manage lands within public ownership and provide the optimal balance between our provision of active and passive recreation and provision and protection of visual amenity and protection and enhancement of biodiversity and environmental habitats.

The Council’s tree management strategy for the period 2015 to 2020 ‘Living with trees’ is being reviewed at present and will be replaced with a new policy document from 2021.  The strategy currently deals with the planting and maintenance of trees in on-street locations, it does not consider trees in park or urban woodland settings.  These areas will be included in the scope of the review of the strategy and will form part of the new strategy.  Work is due to be carried out to establish the extent of existing woodlands in SDCC ownership, these areas will be mapped in the strategy and this will help to identify areas where there is potential for urban woodlands to be extended or newly developed.

South Dublin County Council is a founding member of the Dublin Mountains Partnership (DMP); and the DMP in tandem with Coillte Nature recently announced the Dublin Mountains Conversion Programme as outlined below. SDCC are delighted to be a partner with Coillte in this proposal through the Dublin Mountains Partnership and will seek further ways to partner with Coillte Nature going forward to augment the proposals.

Dublin Mountains Conversion Programme:

“Coillte owns and manages around half of the forests in the Dublin Mountains, with the remainder managed by private forest owners. When this land was first planted with trees between the early 1940s and late 1960s, Dublin was a much smaller city and nobody thought much about outdoor recreation in forests. Today, these forests are among the most important recreational sites for a growing urban population seeking fresh air and green space: Coillte’s most popular forest, Ticknock, sees over 550 visits a day. Until now, Coillte have managed these areas for commercial purposes first, and for recreational purposes second. But because of their popularity and proximity to the city, it’s time to put people’s needs much higher up the agenda. Through the Dublin Mountains Makeover, nine Coillte forests will transition away from the clearfell and replanting cycle towards a different model. Multi-generational forests managed under ‘Continuous Cover Forestry’ (CCF) principles will maintain their green canopy on a permanent basis, and in areas where this isn’t possible, non-native Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine trees will be removed and replanted with native species such as Scots pine, birch, rowan, oak, holly and willow to provide habitat for nature and bring autumn colours to the hills.

Work will start on the Dublin Mountains Makeover in June 2020 and continuing over the coming years, Collite are moving towards a new ‘continuous cover’ approach to forestry that maintains a permanent forest canopy. In areas where this isn’t possible, they are clearfelling small areas of conifer plantations and replanting them with native woodland within the same year. This will enhance and create habitats for wildlife, enrich the forests’ recreational appeal for people and improve the wider landscape’s aesthetic value. The aim of the Dublin Mountains Makeover is to improve biodiversity, climate resilience and recreation.”