The Forestry Foundation – Sustainable forestry in action
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About the Forestry Foundation
The Irish Natural Forestry Foundation was founded in 2002. Forest policy in Ireland was promoting unsustainable practices. An aggressive afforestation programme set a target of covering 17% of the country in trees by 2035. The policy for how this was to achieved was set out in a government document called Growing for the Future (1996). The focus on planting large monocultures of non–native sitka spruce designed for clearfell has led to a range of environmental and social failing of the forest policy in Ireland. The role of INFF, when founded, was to campaign for a robust, inclusive sustainable forestry programme. We campaign for mixed species broadleaf forests, cognisant of the need for a commercial return, while protecting biodiversity.
The organisation has grown in the ten years since 2002, and under the direction of new CEO, Cillian Lohan (who was appointed in 2010), INFF established itself as a one of Ireland’s most active and influential NGO’s.
Cillian Lohan, INFF CEO: In his own words…….
“When I came in here, INFF had been doing tremendous work. The staff had developed a thriving education program at the headquarters on Manch Estate. I was impressed with the estate itself, 320 acres of mixed habitats but primarily woodland. Research plots for national trials had been established, and woodland walkways were maintained throughout the site. There was a membership program and some support from the local community.
It was a good foundation but there was some challenging difficulties to overcome. The running costs were far exceeding the income. Grants and donations were not enough the meet the shortfall and INFF was running at a significant financial loss. There had been reserves from the establishment period, but these were running out and the organisation was in critical danger of closing down.
Through a process of restructuring, re–focussing and strategizing we came through a difficult 18 month period to the end of 2011. We turned a financial corner, and recorded a modest profit for that year. This allowed us to build in 2012, and develop our business plan further.
I had set specific measureables to help us see how we were doing. Our memberships increased from less that 20 to almost 1,000. Our office running costs were cut in half. Our number of submissions to government on advocacy issues increased for the first time in over five years. We developed partnership projects with different organisations. We raised our national profile. We became active at an international level on Rio+20 preparations and through our involvement in issues at an EU level.
INFF now operates three distinct departments: Advocacy, Research & Development, and Education. Each department has its own budget and operates within the model of financial self–sustainability. I am active within each department but focus primarily on the advocacy work. I was appointed to the National Steering Committee of the Environmental Pillar and through that role have regular meetings with government ministers or their senior officials. INFF has been a leader in the field of developing Green Economy policy.
Sarah Clear came in last year (2011) and transformed the research department, managing a variety of projects that all support the advocacy work of the organisation.
Sarah Kate Mc Hugh took over the Education Department as part of her duties as Assistant CEO in 2010 and managed to increase the number of school visits (from kindergarten to third level) to over 1,000 students while re–designing many of the courses and classes. Her team included Nikki Keeling who has been invaluable in her contributions for a number of years now.
Pete Barnard developed specific site related projects and initiatives as part of his Estate Manager role, including developing a craft shop of hand–made wooden items from the sustainably produced wood on site, and developing and delivering a number of adult education courses on rural skills.
This core team has helped INFF transform its functionality. The now strong membership base ensures the work we do is representative of a specific sector of our community. We still work on forestry issues, but now also work on the multitude of areas that are effected by, or effect, forestry – water quality, flooding, transport, renewable energies, habitat management, agriculture to name but a few.
2013 promises to be another exciting year for INFF, with our overseas project work in Tobago (which needs a story in itself) and our ambitious One Million Trees In One Day project here at home in Ireland.
Our success is dependent upon our relevance. Anyone with an interest in getting involved will always be welcome and will find a friendly face (possibly a cup of tea and a biscuit!) if they call into the headquarters at Manch Estate.
As we always set out to achieve a little more than our resources allow, please forgive us if we are busy when you call. Or better still, come prepared to join in!”
INFF continues to develop each department,
· Research & Development, and
We would like to acknowledge the financial support received from the Irish Environmental Network.
Contact us at The Forestry Foundation
Tel: +353 23 8822823