Ireland Recognised by EU for Biodiversity

Coillte’s native woodland restoration project has received an award from the Member States of the European Union for being among the top 6 “Best of Best” LIFE Nature projects assessed in 2010. The presentation was made to Coillte by European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment during Green Week in Brussels.

Coillte has been successful is securing funding for EU LIFE Projects in Ireland, making it the leading player in nature conservation and habitat restoration in Ireland.

Coillte’s EU Affairs Manager, Philip Murphy, commented “This is the highest level of international recognition that is possible for a LIFE Nature project to achieve within the framework of the LIFE Programme itself and illustrates how highly Coillte’s LIFE projects are regarded nationally and internationally.”

Between 2006 and 2009, in one of the largest projects of its kind to take place in this country, over 550 hectares of very rare native woodland habitat were restored through the removal of exotic species and creation of conditions to allow natural regeneration of native trees to take place into the future.

Woodland restoration was undertaken at nine of Coillte’s forest sites across the country in counties Cavan, Clare, Galway, Laois, Limerick, Mayo, Offaly, Sligo and Tipperary. Sensitive restoration of these habitats was carried out by Coillte Forest Managers, forest ground staff and contractors under the direction of a core project team and a wider project management group which included experts from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service.

Sean Quealy, Coillte Project Manager, who accepted the Award during Green Week in Brussels, said that “Four years is only the blink of an eye in relation to the lifespan of a woodland. However, even in that short time, there have been encouraging signs of the success of the project actions. The native woodland habitat and vegetation has been very quick to respond. These woodland areas are being restored largely through natural regeneration, and it is very encouraging to see the profusion of native trees and shrub species emerging.”

Four of the other award winning projects dealt with nature conservation in Germany, Portugal, Spain and the UK and Coillte is pleased to note that the fifth project is the Burren LIFE “Farming For Conservation” project in County Clare. For one of the smaller Member States to get two projects into the top 6 in one year is a fantastic achievement and a high level international recognition of the quality of environmental projects being implemented in Ireland.

This project, “Restoring Priority Woodland Habitats in Ireland” (LIFE05/NAT/IRL/182) has also been the recipient of the International Energy Globe (Ireland section) Award for 2009. The project was co-funded by the EU LIFE Programme and Coillte.