The future is bright for the Irish forestry sector, despite its challenges, according to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett.

Speaking at the 2022 Woodland Festival at the Clonalis Estate, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, at the weekend, she said the Department is currently “working hard to bring the broad range of views on forestry together and provide greater focus to the sector through Project Woodland”.

“We are on the cusp of a new forest programme and notwithstanding the challenges we face, I believe the future is bright,” she said. Interrupted by two years of COVID-19 restrictions, the second Woodland Festival got under way last Sunday with the minister praising the organisers of the festival, Western Forestry Co-op.

Cars were already queuing up at midday and were still arriving five hours later. At that stage, an estimated 4,000 visitors had made their way to the festival.

“We’re really delighted with the turnout because so much work has gone into this festival” said Marina Conway, chief executive, Western Forestry Co-op.

“The objective is to bring a wide cross-section of people to an event that would represent the forestry sector positively in its entirety,” she said.

High interest

John McLoughlin, who led the tree identification walks at the event, said the level of interest in trees and woodlands was extremely high.

“Questions ranged from tree identification to climate change, while some expressed an interest in planting which was really heartening,” he said.

Exhibitor views

The reaction to the show was positive from exhibitors including Liam Byrne, Pro Silva, Jonathan Spazzi, Teagasc, Mechteld Schuller, the Irish Timber Growers Association and Brian McCauley, McCauley Wood Fuels.

“The festival is a great forum to exchange views not only with foresters, farmers, timber processors, university lecturers and other stakeholders but also, as it turned out, with Minister Hackett who took the time to listen to the comments expressed at the various stands,” said Pacelli Breathnach of the Society of Irish Foresters.

Tom Kent, programme leader of the forestry faculty, South East Technological University said the event is worthwhile because “it attracts a wide cross section of the community, especially young people, who expressed an interest in forestry as a career”.

The festival deliberately caters for a wide audience with emphasis on non-commercial forestry even though revenue generation elements such as timber harvesting, wood energy, mobile sawmilling, planting and woodland improvement were well represented.

However, woodworking, furniture and related crafts and hurley-making attracted huge crowds including John Jordan Hurls’ stand.

John admitted that Castlerea is far from the hurling country around his workshop in Ballydaw, Enniscorthy, but said “there is lots of interest in hurley-making both from hurling enthusiasts and ash growers, even though supply is now threatened due to ash dieback”.