The state must drop the pretense that everyone is powerless to prevent the ash death disaster, ash plantation owner Simon White told the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee last week.
In a scathing rebuke of the Forest Service’s response to the disease, White – who is chairman of Limerick-Tipperary Woodland Owners Ltd – said it was not the “whole truth” that its introduction into this country was not the fault of the department’s control systems.
He pointed out that an import ban for all ash plants was only issued after the dying here was discovered.
“All the time leading up to this, everyone in the EU forestry sector was aware of the risks this disease posed to our native ash cultivation in Ireland,” he said.
“Why did our department fail to do the due diligence knowing the trees in Ireland were under threat?”
While he said he was “not here to assign blame,” he said that for fair treatment of the ash plantation owners “it would help if the claim that everyone was powerless to prevent this disaster was dropped.”
White described the department’s reconstitution and underplanting program as a “failed initiative” that was “badly designed” and said it needed to be replaced with a program that “helps people, not costs people”.
Although his group had met Secretary Pippa Hackett several times over the past 18 months and received assurances that the matter would be “re-examined,” he said there had only been some “very minor cosmetic changes” to the scheme.
“There was no attempt to combat the terrible mess of the ash farmers. The lack of action results in two planting seasons being lost,” he said, stressing that for all the trees planted now it will take 70 years before there is a commercial return.
White said larger, older plantation owners “now feel that the Forest Service has its name on their title deeds.”
“They wonder if there will be anything in their holdings for their grandchildren,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/forestry-enviro/forestry/ash-forest-owners-slam-department-over-dieback-41796014.html Ash woodland owners slam Department for dieback