Govt Plans to Sell Off Our Forests for 3 days Worth of Expenditure. Public Will Loose Access for 90 Years
The government is planning to sell off our national forests which are currently owned by Coillte. The plan would be to sell harvesting rights on 500,000 acres out of 1.2 million that they manage. They claim it is worth €700 million although in the Peter Bacon report on Forestry, he puts the true value at €360 million or the equivalent of 3 days of government expenditure. Bacon said: “economic rationale for the proposed sale of harvesting rights no longer stands up and cannot be justified.” and that he further concluded it would actually cost the state €1,300 million to sell the harvesting rights of Coillte due to various liabilities. The report says that the forests should be developed further as a public resource.
But it does not stop just there because part of the plan to sell the harvesting rights would see the land lease to private companies for 90 years and there would be no obligation to continue public access and given experience it other countries the public would lose access to these lands for recreation. This would affect tourism, hikers, mountain-bikers, joggers, families out on weekend walks and many other forms of recreation. Leasing the land for 90 years is a good as selling it for good!
There are a number of private institutions interested in grabbing our national forests amongst them Chinese firms who in all likelihood would bring in their own people and trunks and ship the unprocessed wood back to China directly, thereby threatening many existing timber related jobs and local saw-mills in Ireland. Last year trade agreements were signed when the Chinese visited Ireland and we still do not know what promises were made since they are secret.
One of the companies also interested is a Swiss private pension firm Helvetia Wealth and none other than ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was appointed it’s chairman no doubt with an eye to contacts and network of people within government, councils, civil service and state bodies that he would have. In fact it is not even possible to know from Coillte if any sales have already been made with Helvetia given that Coillte have already sold 40,000 acres of our public land to the private sector. But Ahern is not just inserted into Helvetia for he is also chairman of the industry body International Forest Fund who are also behind the land grab not just in Ireland but elsewhere. We must recall that this is the same lucky Ahern who told the tribunal that he won €25,000 at the races and lead the economic miracle in Ireland and told the ‘naysayers’ to go hang themselves. Unfortunately quite a number of people have committed suicide since the miracle economy collapsed.
Of the 40,000 acres already sold a large chunk were sold to facilitate Shell in Mayo for their operations where they will extract the Corrib Gas for free since they will pay no royalties and will be able to write over all costs against tax. Land was also sold to Wind Farm developers in areas that would be considered unsustainable for wind because the sites are not the best locations for wind and they would be underpowered.
People should be aware that much of the forestry targeted for the sell off is on land which was planted at state expense in the 1960s by the then Forestry Service. No doubt there was many a statement then about how these were for our future. Instead because of the insistence of bailing out bankers, developers, speculators & gamblers and bond holders this wealth is stolen from us all through sleight of hand.
The Woodland League has been campaigning for the past few years against the sell-off of our forests and it is time that the pressure is stepped up and more people take notice and get involved. In Sweden where parts of their forests were privatised a few years ago, they have now reversed the process and are taking them back into public ownership.
In the UK, similar moves are afoot. It is possible we can win this fight as this is a very broad issue affecting a very broad range of groups and people and affects all counties.
We also need to put a stop to the drip drip selling off of forestry that is happening. The reason appears to be is because Coillte who were given 1.2 million acres and had profits of €400 million have managed to screw up and appear to be in great financial difficulty particularly with their pension fund and they seem to have only kept going because they are selling off the nation’s silverware.
The Bacon report was commissioned by the Forestry workers union, IMPACT and is available here or the copy attached to this article. Assessment of the Consequences of the Proposed Sale of Coillte’s Timber Harvesting Rights
Connemara Community Radio carried the interview (attached here) of Andrew St. Ledger of the Woodland League on Jan 31st 2013 days after the publication of the report. Much of the above report is based on this interview.
The Woodland League ( http://woodlandleague.org/ ) who are opposed to the sell-off of Coillte harvesting rights and land are promoting an alternative strategy which consists of the 3 R’s of forestry. These stand for
1) Regeneration of native forests
2) Restoration of forest culture
3) Reform of Forest policy in Ireland.
They are running a petition to save Ireland’s forests and have 37k signatures so far.
There is no “robust” evidence that renewable energy developments are hurting Scotland‘s tourism industry, a parliamentary inquiry has said.
Holyrood’s economy committee also said the Scottish government’s ambitious green energy targets could be met.
But MSPs warned they were being put at risk because of a lack of finance.
Ministers want to see the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity needs generated from renewable sources by 2020, as part of its drive to make the country Europe’s green “capital”.
Continue reading the main story
Global investors – be warned”
Trump Organisation statement
Mr Trump, who gave evidence in person to the inquiry, is opposing plans to build an offshore wind farm near his £1bn golf resort in Menie, Aberdeenshire.
He said Scotland was committing “financial suicide” by wanting to create a “wind farm landscape”.
The businessman told the inquiry wind farms were inefficient, could not operate without big subsides, “killed massive amounts of wildlife” and would damage tourism.
When challenged to provide statistical evidence for his arguments, Mr Trump told the committee in April: “I am the evidence”, adding: “I am considered a world-class expert in tourism, so when you say, ‘where is the expert and where is the evidence’, I’m the evidence.”
In its inquiry report, the committee said: “No witness has provided the committee with robust, empirical evidence, as opposed to anecdotal comment and opinion, that tourism is being negatively affected by the development of renewable projects.”
Responding to the committee’s findings, the Trump Organisation suggested the inquiry was a “white wash”, adding: “The report, with findings like these, does not inspire confidence – it fails entirely to address the costs to the public and the impact on tourism, communities and the lives of ordinary people.
“This government cannot be trusted, they will say and do anything, including lie, to support their political goals.
“The Scottish economy is condemned to suffer a downward spiral, if this thinking continues – global investors be warned.”
Elsewhere, the economy committee report warned the green energy targets were at risk because companies were struggling to get finance, and said the planning system and investment in industry skills must be looked at.
Elsewhere, the committee said:
Significant investment in infrastructure is needed to grow the renewables industry amid a “reluctance” of some banks to invest, particularly in small and medium sized projects;
Renewable energy skill shortages means there is a risk the target will not be met without investment in science, technology, engineering and maths at school, college and universities.
Under-pressure councils need help due to high volumes of planning applications.
Greater consideration of the economic benefits of community renewable projects should be considered under the planning system.
The UK government should “end industry uncertainty” by finalising their Renewables Obligation Certificate levels.
The Scottish islands are still disadvantaged by the electricity transmission and charging system, making many projects “uneconomic”.
The target to generate 11% of heat demand from renewable sources by 2020 is at risk because of issues surrounding local and domestic heating schemes.
Economy committee convener Murdo Fraser said: “The electricity target can be achieved, but only if the issues outlined in this report are acted upon.
MSPs on the committee said action was needed for Scotland to meet its green energy targets
“Our recommendations are crucial to the success of the renewables industry in Scotland, and focus on issues such as access to finance, the planning system, infrastructure development and investment in skills.”
The Tory MSP said the Scottish and UK governments would have to work together to meet some of the aims in the report.
Mr Fraser added: “The overwhelming message from investors was that strong leadership, and a robust and reliable investment climate and subsidy regime is critical for the targets to be met.
“The committee regrets the reluctance of some banks to invest and in the current financial environment, is concerned that the renewables industry will not have access to the finance it needs to grow, which will ultimately put the targets at risk.”
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing welcomed the report’s conclusion that the renewable energy target could be met.
He added: “We welcome the committee’s acknowledgement that renewable energy is a ‘safe bet’ to provide energy security for the people of Scotland and protect us all from energy price shock.
“The positive tone of this report reflects the widespread belief across the industry, the government and its agencies and key stakeholders that renewable energy can deliver huge benefits for Scotland’s people.”
The government welcomed the report.
The great bog of Ireland, spoken of in song and story, could become the host to hundreds of wind farms which would generate electricity exclusively for the United Kingdom’s national grid.
According to the Guardian,the plan is already being considered by Irish government ministers. Element Power, the company behind the $8 billion dollar proposal, hopes to build more than 700 turbines and transport the power generated through two dedicated undersea cables across the Irish sea to the UK.
The plans have also been discussed among the UK coalition government and appear to have won their support.
To help finance the Irish project, the company would need access to the subsidies currently given to UK wind power, but that sets a potentially awkward precedent – which could imply that any foreign energy projects could request UK subsidies – presenting unusual challenges to the project.
Mike O’Neill, the president of Element Power, sees only a win for British government, however. “Our experience is that it is easier to get planning permission in the Republic of Ireland, if you do it in a sensible and sensitive way,” he told the Guardian.
O’Neill’s plan acknowledges that Britain’s electricity suppliers are obliged to provide an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, cutting the carbon emissions that drive climate change and meeting their own targets.
Element Power claims its project, entitled Greenwire, will provide electricity at two-thirds of the cost of building an offshore wind farm, which will reduce the amount that needs to be charged to the UK consumer by £7 billion over 15 years. It added that the project could provide 3GW of electricity capacity and employ thousands of workers.
O’Neill said the project could start generating power from 2018, if the subsidy obstacle could be overcome.
Currently there are more than 1,100 turbines in operation in Ireland, mostly located at 176 onshore windfarms with a further seven offshore.