Pro Silva Ireland

Pro Silva Annual Meeting, Ireland, 14th – 16th June 2023

Meeting Report

Held in Ireland’s ‘Garden county’ of Wicklow, Pro Silva Ireland was honoured to host, for only the 2nd time, the International Pro Silva Annual Meeting. This afforded Pro Silva Ireland the opportunity to return some of the warm and valuable hospitality received from other Pro Silva member countries over the past 20 years.

This auspicious three-day event brought together delegates representing Pro Silva organisations in 22 EU countries and showcased pioneering Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) (also known as Closer-to-Nature forest management) in Ireland. The 56 international delegates in attendance represented practitioners, researchers, forest owners, policy makers and educators of CCF, and were joined by an invited delegation of similar Irish expertise to discuss and debate a future that delivers closer-to-nature forestry for people and the environment.

The theme for this year’s meeting was “Transforming forests and forest cultures in a changing world”.

Pro Silva Ireland Committee and all the international Pro Silva delegates. Photo: Nessa Keeley

Participants and presenters from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland showcased how Pro Silva Ireland members have been on a journey of transforming plantations from even-aged monocultures to more diverse, multifunctional forests since 2000.

Over the course of the three days, international forestry delegates were given an in-depth tour of the past, present and future of CCF in Ireland. The event acknowledged Ireland’s pioneering forestry practices, policies, research, education and training in CCF to both our international and local guests, enabled valuable knowledge exchange and facilitated debate and discussion.

Attendees received valuable insights into Irish forests, conditions and practices including:

  • our favourable fast tree-growing conditions and how this can aid transformation to permanent forests
  • the challenge of promoting light-demanding tree species (including oak) and how larger gap management might assist;
  • the importance of broadleaves in periods of lower rainfall;
  • the value of pruning;
  • the critical role of research and the need for much more education; and the value of positive engagement with all sectors of society.

The 2023 International Pro Silva Annual Meeting was a great opportunity to showcase what Pro Silva Ireland has achieved since 2000 through the dedication of our members and with warm support from Pro Silva International members.

It was important to reflect too, that Ireland’s increasing numbers of landowners embracing CCF is a significant achievement, despite Ireland having a dominant forestry management practice of clear-cutting and replanting fast-growing conifers.

Attendees to the Pro Silva meeting walking through the beautiful CCF-managed Cloragh forest, Co. Wicklow. Photo: Ness Keeley

We are particularly grateful to be a part of how Pro Silva International is advancing a significant cultural shift across the global forest sector to manage forests in perpetuity for broader ecological aims: for environmental, social and economic priorities equally. Importantly, these endeavours are in line with the global urgency to restore our ecosystems.

There was also recognition that inputs from diverse persons and professions (including foresters, forest owners, forest workers, ecologists, educators, historians and creative workers) are vitally important in sharing the story of how we foster a thriving resilient forest culture in Ireland, just as the diversity of trees and habitats promote healthy resilient forests. Similarly, the importance of open dialogue with policy makers, both at national and international level, was apparent throughout the meeting.

The event conveyed that many of the challenges to shift to a more sustainable model of forestry are shared by all countries, including:

  • How to advance deer management
  • How to foster the best natural regeneration of diverse tree species
  • to meet saw millers’ preferred log type and size
  • the huge shortage of skilled forestry professionals
  • the need for forestry education and training throughout the education system
  • This is important for all countries regardless if they have a long history of forest culture or not.

    Pro Silva Ireland was happy to receive open appreciation from Minister Pippa Hackett and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and the Marine (DAFM) for all our efforts and policy initiatives, which are ongoing. And we were delighted to invite and learn from other inspiring Irish forest stakeholders.

    Overall, this meeting and its legacy of recordings (in production) will continue to raise the profile of Pro Silva Ireland and CCF management across Ireland. It afforded a great team-building opportunity for the Pro Silva Ireland Committee and cemented many great friendships across regions and countries and created many more new ones. This also included new opportunities for Pro Silva Ireland study tours and international knowledge exchange.

    Pro Silva Ireland is grateful to be part of the wider International Pro Silva movement to foster how we can promote CCF management practices to help transform forests and cultures in a changing world.

    All the people who contributed to this extraordinary event are listed in the attached ‘Acknowledgements Pro Silva Annual Meeting’, but we must acknowledge the financial support received from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and most importantly, the continued support from you, our members, without which we could not have hosted this event.

    Reports and Information