Edwin Poots: Half of 18 million new trees to be native to NI

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

  • Published
Poots tree
Image caption,
Edwin Poots was speaking at tree planting event in Cookstown

The environment minister has said at least half of the 18 million trees due to be planted in the coming decade will be native species.

Edwin Poots was speaking at an event in Cookstown, County Tyrone, on Monday to mark the roll-out of the project.

Four hundred children gathered at Loughrey College to plant 1,000 oak trees.

The college is owned by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

It is to improve levels of tree cover in Northern Ireland and contribute to carbon capture as part of the response to climate change.

Image caption,
Four hundred children gathered at Loughrey College to plant 1,000 oak trees

Mr Poots said the scheme would involve some commercial forestry, but he wanted to see at least half the trees being native broadleaf species.

He also said trees would not be planted on peatlands - an important carbon sink which can be damaged by inappropriate planting.

The minister said in the first instance, officials would seek to identify suitable publicly owned land for the project to keep down costs.

Europe's lowest tree cover

But he said there would also be support to incentivise farmers and other landowners to put their ground into forestry.

The target of 18 million trees will improve Northern Ireland's tree cover, which at 8%, is one of the lowest in Europe.

But it will not be sufficient to get Northern Ireland to an existing target of 12% by 2056.

Mr Poots said it might be difficult to hit an annual target of 1.8 million trees a year in the early stages of the project.

But he said as more land is identified he was confident the 10-year target could be reached.

He said the £80m 10-year cost he identified last week was at the upper end of the scale and he expected the actual cost to be lower.