SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has welcomed the Assembly’s unanimous support for an SDLP motion calling for measures to protect, preserve and enhance our peatlands and woodlands. The motion, which was debated on Tuesday 11 May, also paid tribute to the emergency service personnel from across these islands and the local community who responded to the recent wildfires in the Mournes.
Speaking afterwards Mr McGlone said, “I welcome the unanimous support for the SDLP motion in the Assembly.
“We, rightly, united in tribute to the emergency service personnel from across these islands and the local community who responded to the recent wildfires in the Mournes.
“For three days firefighters tackled the devasting blaze and brought it under control. This area of outstanding natural beauty was left badly scarred with significant areas of gorse and heather affected.
“As well as the considerable damage to the landscape the wildlife has also suffered. But for the heroic efforts of the personnel on the mountain it could have been much worse.
“The Assembly also united to call on the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to produce fully resourced strategies and implementation plans to protect, preserve and enhance our peatlands and woodlands without further delay.
“Upland areas like the Mournes are not only an important habitat for plants and animals, but they also have a huge potential to capture and store carbon.
“It is vital that as part of our efforts to combat the Climate Emergency we improve air quality and biodiversity by preserving and enhancing the natural environment.
“This means not only protecting and re-wilding peatlands, but also protecting, preserving, and enhancing our woodlands.
“Our ancient woodland is almost extinct at just 0.04 percent of our total landscape. Woodland cover has only increased by 2.9 per cent since 1998.
“There are a number of threats to woodlands which combine to negatively impact on biodiversity. Those threats include declining woodland conditions, the effect of climate change on the woodland lifecycle, the loss of trees and woods, disease and pollution, and the slow rate of woodland expansion.
“The Woodland Trust has recommended a rate of planting 2,000 hectares a year by 2025 to help reach net zero carbon emissions and tackle the decline in wildlife.
“These are not an optional add-on to other measures designed to tackle the Climate Emergency. They are an integral part of the overall strategy.
“The SDLP will work with the Minister to ensure he now brings forward the fully resourced strategies and implementation plans needed to achieve these objectives as a matter of urgency.”