Forestry in Ireland has never been so contentious. It is the subject of protests outside parliament and angry call-in radio shows. Over the last century the area of Irish woodland has increased tenfold, mostly through the planting of imported conifer species: government policy is to plant more trees to supply industry and to tackle climate change, both urgent priorities. But there has been a backlash from farmers, local communities, environmentalists and EU regulators. The rate of new planting has plummeted. And the reality is that up to one-third of the new plantations are failed forests that should never have been planted in the first place.
So how did we end up in this peculiar situation? Island of Woods takes a sweeping historical view, tracing the history of Irish forests over the last 10,000 years. It examines the state of Irish forestry today and sketches a way forward for our woods that balances commercial, environmental and social goals – a vision of a different type of forestry that could transform the Irish landscape and re-establish a genuine tree culture in the country.
This comprehensive and engaging overview of the history of Irish forestry relates historical events to present-day concerns and controversies, drawing out general themes that echo throughout the centuries. It will appeal to anyone who cares about the Irish landscape and environment.
Dr Paul McMahon was born in Ireland and studied at University College Dublin, completing his PhD in history at the University of Cambridge. He has pursued a varied career in academia, finance and environmental policy and has published two books, Feeding Frenzy: The New Politics of Food (2013) and an Irish Times book of the year, British Spies and Irish Rebels: British Intelligence and Ireland (2008). He is the co-founder of SLM Partners, an investment business that invests in sustainable agriculture and forestry across the world.