Social Democratic and Labour Party MLAs have raised serious concerns about the state of Northern Ireland’s forests after the Woodland Trust launched ground-breaking research into the condition of local woods and trees.
Dolores Kelly MLA, sponsor of draft Environment and Nature Restoration legislation at Stormont, said that the scarcity of local woodlands is contributing to a biodiversity crisis in the North and demands action from the Executive.
Patsy McGlone MLA, a member of the Stormont Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, has called for a new strategy to incentivise greater numbers of land managers to invest in ecosystem services.
Dolores Kelly MLA 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. That is why I am seeking to give statutory underpinning to biodiversity targets that will include the restoration of our rich woodlands.
⚠️ The need to take action to protect, restore and enhance nature has never been more urgent ⚠️@doloreskelly is bringing forward an Environment and Nature Restoration Bill to protect our biodiversity.— Social Democratic and Labour Party (@SDLPlive) January 11, 2021
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Patsy McGlone MLA 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.”