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.