“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
If you are lucky enough to own some mature trees or woodland, then you also bear a certain responsibility in terms of managing and maintaining these wonderful spaces. Statistics show that Ireland is one of the least forested countries in Europe, and the little we do have is dominated by invasive Sitka spruce, with native trees such as oak, beech and birch in much lower proportions. This is a major threat to a woodland’s overall bio-diversity.
Coillte Sláintiúil – meaning ‘healthy forests’ as gaeilge – was founded in the Muscraí area by Neil Vaughan as a spinoff from his tree services company. Coillte Sláintiúil provides services all over Munster to protect and replace woodland habitat that is of huge environmental and cultural importance but that is being lost to invasive species, diseases such as honey fungus and oak dieback, and overall neglect.
“Woodland destruction and conservation is a major issue today,” explains Neil. “It is a worldwide problem that, one acre at a time, Coillte Sláintiúil is trying to help solve. Outside of building a business, we wanted to do our bit.
“I grew up on a small farm and woodlands were very important for wintering cattle when we didn’t have sheds. The work of Coillte Sláintiúil ties into the ideal of going back to where we were.”
As well as invasive species and disease management Coillte Sláintiúil also provides habitat preservation and installation (for example nestboxes), tree pruning, removal and preservation services.
Coillte Sláintiúil’s vision and experience recently impressed enough to be awarded LEADER funding. “Going forward Coillte Sláintiúil will be a much bigger project,” says Neil. “It is snowballing. Every month there is some new aspect that develops.”
A good maintenance programme focuses on areas such as: Invasive species control and management; Enhancing the forest floor and the growth in the understorey; Tree preservation, removal of diseased growth and weaker specimens; Enhancing Biodiversity; Disease Management; Habitat Creation and Waste Management.
“The importance of this maintenance work cannot be overstated at the moment with the challenges currently facing biodiversity and the green environment, namely species extinction and habitat destruction,” Neil explains.
“Tree surgery may seem expensive but, when you look at the cost of not managing and maintaining these areas, the cost of doing nothing becomes all too apparent.
“Firstly, the environmental cost cannot be overstated. But consider also the financial cost of cleaning up after storms like Ophelia. These weather events, which are becoming more common, will fell trees and branches that aren’t being properly maintained, paying no regard to life or property. This can be a lot more costly than paying for the careful management in the first place!”
Restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems is an EU Rural Development policy priority. In 2018, Coillte Sláintiúil safeguarded approximately 35-40 acres of woodland, focusing on control of invasive species. Future results will also emerge where native plants are revived because of the removal of invasive species.
In the next five years, Coillte Sláintiúil plans to develop a corporate retreat around woodland conservation. This will be focused on environmental education, such as native species planting demos or what citizens can do to ensure invasive species don’t come into their local area.
If you would like to discuss creating and maintaining a healthy and safe woodland on your land contact Neil on 087-3599287 or visit www.nvts.ie and www.coillteslaintiuil.ie for more information.