THE Woodland Trust Northern Ireland recently welcomed Minister for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA, to the single largest native woodland in Northern Ireland.

The 60-ha native woodland at Aughrim, which is privately owned, has been leased in the short term to tthe Woodland Trust Northern Ireland in order to complete the planted.

The project was made possible thanks to a partnership between the Forestry Service, the Woodland Trust and Mournes Heritage Trust.

Aughrim was funded by the Forest Expansion Scheme and is a prime example of how the Woodland Trust can work flexibly to create woodlands for private landowners, the conservation charity said.

Formerly a bare hill, Aughrim is now the site for a young woodland of 110,000 native trees including Scots pine, birch and oak, all planted by hand.

In March 2020, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), launched the Forests for our Future programme to help tackle climate change, pledging to plant 18 million trees (9,000 ha) over the next 10 years to store carbon and increase Northern Ireland’s woodland cover.

READ MORE: Northern Irish Water to plant over 1 million trees in next decade​

Ian McCurley, director of Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, said: “To be able to create woodlands as large as Aughrim means more for nature, more for climate change and more for people. We need to rapidly increase tree cover to help reach net zero carbon emissions and tackle the declines in wildlife.

“In Northern Ireland, we need to reach a rate of planting 2,000 hectares a year by 2025 in order to achieve our goals by 2030. We need to start creating woodland on a landscape scale in order to reach our targets.”

Minister Poots said: “The woodland at Aughrim and is an excellent Woodland Trust project, and a great example of how working in partnership with DAERA’s Forest Service, private landowners can bring forward land for planting to help us achieve the aims of the Forests for our Future programme.

“I am leading the development of the Executive’s Green Growth strategy which the Woodland Trust’s initiatives support by capturing carbon, improving the landscape and environment and moving us towards a net-zero carbon economy.”

Woodland Trust Northern Ireland’s Director, Ian McCurley, concluded: “We at the Woodland Trust have a crucial role to play and so does everyone. To increase tree cover in Northern Ireland, we need to pursue a mix of approaches, at a variety of scales appropriate to the landscape.

“These must include expanding native woodland, sustainable commercial plantations, agroforestry, urban trees, hedges and individual countryside trees. Trees will need to be planted on an unprecedented scale, but the right trees in the right places are needed.”

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