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This year’s study tour was our largest ever and reflects the growing interest about continuous forestry across Ireland. We were kindly hosted this year by Marc-Etienne Wilhelm of Office National des Forets (ONF) in France. The tour in the Alsace and Vosges region of eastern France took place from September 13th to 16th, 2018 and we had great weather and superb hospitality (with a visit to a local vineyard that had enormous oak barrels made from timbers in the region). In the wide range of forests we were taken to, there was an emphasis on broadleaved (particularly oak) silviculture and we saw a range of sites with different high value hardwood species. . There was also a session looking at irregular thinning of Douglas fir in the Vosges mountains.
Along with our own members, who include foresters, ecologists, forestry students, harvesters, forest researchers and forest owners, we were also joined by some enthusiastic foresters from the UK. We gain such a lot from spending time in forests particularly as our French hosts were so knowledgeable. They generously shared the in-the-forest practical aspects of Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry management so there was much discussion and examples of thinning for bringing on the best growth for timber trees, and how their practices safeguard existing and regenerating trees for biodiversity and the future forest. Particularly useful was that in some forests our study group followed behind professional French as they marked trees for thinning.
These Alsace forests were so inspiring as we could see effects of skilled thinning in forests that are much more advanced in years and diversity than what we currently have in Ireland. Our French forestry colleagues gave us even more confidence in our continuing efforts.
Our thanks again to Marc-Etienne and his forestry colleagues in for such an informative and inspiring study trip.