A curious case of climate action having an unsettling impact in a Mayo community

It's a known fact the government is under pressure to meet climate action targets over the coming years - and for very good and obvious reasons.

One of the steps being taken in that regard is to increase afforestation rates.

As part of this plan, a sum of €1.3 billion was granted for a new forestry programme between the years 2023 and 2027.

This new afforestation initiative offers landowners a choice of 12 forest types which cover a broad range of planting options and it provides generous incentives to farmers, in particular, to re-engage with forestry.

However, the scheme has clearly backfired in the community of Craggagh, located between Balla and Kiltimagh, where residents believe that the future of their rural parish, as well as others, is being sacrificed on the altar of climate change.

And all because one particular type of tree being planted - the fast-growing Sitka spruce, which has become a source of grave concern.

First and foremost, the Craggagh residents are fearful in respect of over-forestation in the area by commercial plantations, considering more than half of the townland has already been planted and that a French company now intends to plant a new 15 ha Sitka spruce forest there without any consultation with the community.

This has led to fears around the displacement of the rural population while reservations in relation to the physical and psychological impact of the situation have been brought to the attention of elected representatives.

Let's be honest, this is not what an important component of climate action should be achieving because it's clearly counter productive.

Okay, it is helping the government reach its targets - but at the huge risk of further rural decline.

In the days of Joe Blowick, the former Mayo TD who served as Minister for Lands from 1948 to 1951 and from 1954 to 1957, a huge afforestation programme was undertaken in this country.

While the government did not have the same climate action pressure that it does today, it had the good sense to identify lands that were remote and would not impact directly on people's lives.

Today, common sense is clearly not central to government thinking because local young couples struggle to get planning permission for a home on a rural site while companies have no problem getting approval for large forests in the same locations.

Yes, we are supportive of climate action in this county.

But not at the cost of our people and the future welfare of their communities.