Year after year Deputies concentrate on drawing attention to the importance of this Department, or part of a Department. Like Deputy MacBride last night, I want to impress on the Minister that he should realise the importance of forestry to the country economically and for the provision of employment. We believe that it is essential to do everything possible to speed up the forestry programme and if it is possible to reach the target of 25,000 acres annually we should try to do so.
From the Minister's statement it would seem that if we do reach 25,000 acres per annum, we do not appear to know what would happen then but I think that, if that should occur, we should take drastic steps to go on increasing our planting. The Minister seemed to sense dangers in relation to the acquisition of the land. Some of us are very interested in this matter as we wished to see the results of experiments in the utilisation of ex-peat land. Such land is available in very large areas throughout many parts of the country including Cork. If these experiments give a satisfactory result, it will help us to overcome any problems of which the Minister may be afraid in relation to land acquisition.
Five or six years ago we were told that it would be fantastic to attempt to grow timber on such land. I am glad to know that now our policy in relation to forestry has changed somewhat and that we are prepared to take a chance. It is better to take a chance in a new approach to a problem like this, and fail, than to sit back and do nothing as was done in the 20's, 30's and 40's. I believe that, when we are considering the problem of forestry, with its overall value in relation to industry and the industries that can arise from it, we should realise that it is vitally necessary to the economic welfare of this State. It is essential that this problem of our forests should be tackled in a manner that would give us better results.
I consider that no matter how we try to achieve the great improvement that we wish, no matter how the Government, the Minister, or the Department may act in their desire to achieve good results, they will not do so unless the desire to co-operate with other sections of the community is greater than it has been. It is necessary to have a far greater degree of co-operation than we have had with bodies such as Muintir na Tíre, Macra na Feirme and the county committees of agriculture. Rightly or wrongly, members of these bodies believe through their past experience, that there was never any great desire on the part of Departments of State to co-operate with them. These people are not out for their own personal interests. They are prepared to offer their services to the State, particularly in regard to forestry, because they realise that the forestry programme is essential. From what I know of the Minister, I believe that he is quite prepared to give to these people the necessary co-operation.
Then there is the question of the county committees of agriculture. I believe that there is something lacking in the approach to the local angle with regard to forestry. Should these county committees of agriculture extend a greater degree of co-operation to the Department and should the Department be prepared to co-operate with them I believe that the problem that is noticeable in rural Ireland at the present time will be solved, that is, the ignorance of the value that timber can have for the people in the rural areas. When I say "ignorance" I am not casting any reflection on the people, but the fact is that over the years the country has been denuded of timber and people were never taught to appreciate the value of replanting, whether woodlands or forestry, on a large scale. They are handicapped in their approach because of that ignorance. The county committees of agriculture and local authorities, combined with the Forestry Branch, should make every effort to get over to the people the importance of their co-operation. If we get that co-operation, we shall achieve something worth while.
I have raised the question of replanting on many occasions. Some years ago the Minister told us that he was checking up on those people who, during the emergency, came very well out of the sale of timber. These people got permits to fell on condition they replanted. What is the position to-day? A large percentage failed to meet their commitments in that regard. It is time we had a more detailed report on this matter. The Minister did not mention this aspect last night—I do not blame him; he could not be expected to cover every point— in his introductory speech. Now, while some people did replant, having got grants, the difficulty is that they merely stuck young seedlings into the ground and left them there. I know many areas in which these young seedlings, now young saplings, are choked with briars and undergrowth. They are admittedly showing certain signs of growth but they will never be of any commercial value. Even for firewood, I think they will be of little value. The officials of the Forestry Branch may have had their difficulties in relation to the overall problem of afforestation. It is essential that more staff should be made available, in my opinion, for an examination of these aspects of forestry. These young saplings will never be of any value to the State.
It would not be fair to turn this debate into a parish pump discussion. Many of us are not satisfied, however, with the forestry programme in South Cork. The Minister with his fine, jovial, genial personality, was seen down around Glengariff. That is an area into which some of us would scarcely be allowed to enter. I would remind the Minister that there is plenty of room for him in South Cork. The difficulty is that he is sometimes inclined to pass the buck to some of us so far as acquiring land there is concerned. Now, I am not too well in with the landowners there and possibly if I approached them, they would set the dog on me. The Minister should make further inquiries with regard to land in South Cork, because land is available there. Young men in this area have very little alternative employment. They hope for a job with the local farmer or casual employment with the county council, but that employment does not exist all the year round. When there is land available it is essential, from the point of view of the economy of the country, that full use should be made of it. It is even more essential that these people should get employment.
The Minister may say that there is not sufficient land available in these areas for afforestation purposes. My colleagues Deputy Manley and Deputy MacCarthy will agree with me that there is land fit for nothing but afforestation, or woodlands, in the Kinsale-Belgooly area. Over all that area, and in other areas too, remain the signs of what was once woodland. These areas are useless at the present time. Technical advisers brought here from other countries may say that it would not be economic to plant these areas unless a particular acreage is available. We should approach our problems in our own way. It is ridiculous to suggest, on the one hand, that there may be difficulty in acquiring large tracts of land for afforestation while, on the other hand, smaller lots spread over different areas are available. All these could be utilised.
The Minister may hold that such a policy would not be economic. That is where I suggest the local county committees should enter into the picture. If the county committees and the local authorities co-operate, there will be no need for the Forestry Branch to have their staff there all the year round. Surely it is not impossible to make some approach along the lines I suggest. We hear a good deal of talk about waste land and a good deal of talk about drainage problems. Fortunately our drainage problems are being solved. We should not lose sight of the fact that there are thousands of acres not worth 1/- per acre from the point of view of valuation which could be utilised for woodlands or afforestation on a small scale.
The Minister may say that afforestationqua afforestation compels him to give all his attention to it. I would ask him to concentrate on the aspect I have put before him in an effort to solve the problems which exist in areas like South Cork where there are thousands of acres available for the production of timber. These areas are crying out for attention. I appeal to the Minister to have them examined from the point of view of afforestation. Let us hope that, when he introduces his Estimate next year, we shall have gone forward some little way towards achieving in areas, other than Glengariff, something in the nature of afforestation.