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Clarke welcomes progress on Forestry Bill

23 September, 2009

Sinn Fein Assembly Member Willie Clarke has welcomed the progress made on the Forestry Bill in the Assembly after it had its second reading last Tuesday. Cllr Clarke, who sits on the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee, believes the new legislation will have significant benefits for South Down

Cllr Clarke continued:

“This is the first piece of forestry legislation being implemented in the North of Ireland in over 50 years so it’s absolutely vital we get it right.

“During the summer recess I had discussions with a number of stakeholders, including officials’ from the Woodland Trust, and members’ of the private sector.

“The creation of new woodlands in the North has fallen to below fifty percent of the target that was set at 550 hectares per annum. This new act needs to address this major shortfall as a matter of urgency.

“The use of our natural environment to help in the development of recreational and sporting pursuits must be given serious consideration and has to be balanced with the commercial aspects of timber production.

“Local communities need to be able to benefit from our forests and there is the potential for community groups and the reconstituted and expanded councils to investigate working with Forestry Service in order to build high quality play parks that will benefit local people and tourists alike.

“I also welcome the possibility of Forestry Service land being used for other uses including the production of fuel for renewable energy, through for example wind farms, as well as the development of environmental friendly tourist facilities.

“During the Assembly recess I along with other interested parties visited Yorkshire to investigate the potential for forestry to diversify into sporting and eco holiday provision. There are numerous benefits to utilising our forests and in my own constituency of South Down there are endless opportunities that can be availed off if we get this legislation right.” ENDS

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