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Wildlife Protection

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 18 April 2012

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Ceisteanna (1113)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

1130 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will halt efforts to fell the woods at Lismullen in the Tara Skryne valley, County Meath until an archaeological survey has been carried out and until bird nesting season has finished; if he will consider an intermittent schedule of felling to allow the area to adjust to gradual change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18732/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

I have made enquiries and I am informed that the application for felling on this site was referred to the Local Forest Service Inspector, the Forest Service Ecologist, the Forest Service Archaeologist, Inland Fisheries Ireland, National Monuments Service, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Meath County Council.

The Local Forest Service Inspector and the Forest Service Ecologist approved the application with no conditions over and above the standard conditions common to all clearfell General Felling Licences. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Inland Fisheries Ireland and Meath County Council made no comments or observations.

The Forest Service Archaeologist consulted the National Monuments Service of the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. On this basis, the archaeologist approved the licence subject to certain conditions as follows:—

1. Coillte must submit a detailed plan for the removal of trees from the monument and/or its immediate environs for the prior consideration and agreement of the Forest Service Archaeologist and the agreement of the National Monuments Service. This must be submitted at least 3 weeks in advance of the felling commencement date.

2. Pre-felling archaeological works must be carried out by a suitably qualified archaeologist.

3. The regional Harvesting Manager, the local Forest or Environmental Managers, the Coillte Archaeologist, or other consultant archaeologist should contact the Forest Service Archaeologist in advance of inspecting the monument.

The licence was issued, with the Forest Service Archaeologist's conditions attached, on the 11th April 2011.

Coillte employed a consultant archaeologist, who compiled an Archaeological Impact Assessment and plan. A copy of this plan was submitted to both the Forest Service and the National Monuments Service in early November 2011. It was then considered jointly by the National Monuments Service and the Forest Service Archaeologist.

The National Monuments Service requested that the sensitivity of the site be emphasised with Coillte's consultant archaeologist. It also emphasised the necessity of ensuring, as per the plan, that an archaeologist would be present to continuously monitor the works in and around the souterrain. This was conveyed to Coillte by the Forest Service Archaeologist.

In response to complaint by a member of the public when the felling commenced, the relevant Coillte regional Environment Manager was contacted. He informed the Forest Service that no trees have been felled within 50 metres of the monument and that the consultant archaeologist was scheduled to be on site from the morning of 4th April 2012, i.e. before Coillte commenced works in that area.

The Coillte regional Environment Manager had also undertaken a wider appraisal of the site from an environmental perspective prior to any works commencing and identified an additional ‘cultural feature', namely a stone lined well, which was also marked off and protected. The Forest Service Archaeologist inspected the site in person on the morning of 4th April 2012, examined the condition of the souterrain before any works had commenced near it, and spoke to the harvesting crew and Coillte's consultant archaeologist. The Forest Service Archaeologist re-inspected the site again on the morning of 6th April 2012 and examined the souterrain and its environs after felling in that area had been completed. No evident damage of any nature has occurred to the monument. The stone-lined well is similarly intact and undisturbed. A report on the archaeological monitoring undertaken by Coillte's consultant archaeologist has since been received by the Forest Service Archaeologist and copied to the National Monuments Service. On the basis of this extensive preparation and its own inspections, the Forest Service of my Department is satisfied that a sufficient archaeological survey has been carried out and that Coillte took sufficient and appropriate action to protect all archaeology at the site.

There are no known protected bird species at this site and, therefore, no special conditions must be attached to a felling licence in relation to felling within the nesting season. Coillte is aware of its obligations under current legislation and must harvest its trees in accordance with current legislation and good forestry practice.

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