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The changing relationships between forestry and the local community in rural northwestern Ireland

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Following centuries of deforestation, Ireland has undergone a substantial afforestation programme in the last 40years. This paper presents the results of a case study undertaken to examine local response to afforestation. The study is set in Arigna, a region in northwestern Ireland that has traditionally depended on agriculture but has experienced relatively high rates of afforestation in recent decades. Relying on documentary evidence and in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with local stakeholders, the results suggest more local resistance to afforestation than one might expect in a country that has historically experienced such massive deforestation. Among the reasons uncovered for this resistance is the history of land tenure in rural Ireland, the institutional means by which afforestation has been conducted, the tree species used, and the aesthetic appearance of the forest stands once established. Underlying all of this is an apparently widespread local perception that forestry has benefited outsiders more than locals. Yet, the study also documents local perceptions that those responsible for afforestation have responded to concerns and that resistance to afforestation may be declining, as well as the reasons for this decline. The paper concludes with a discussion of the importance of local history and community involvement in developing socially acceptable forestry.

Après des siècles de déboisement, l’Irlande a mis en œuvre un important programme de reboisement au cours des quarante dernières années. Cet article présente les résultats d’une étude de cas permettant d’examiner la réponse locale à ce programme. L’étude se déroule en Arigna, une région du nord-ouest de l’Irlande qui, traditionnellement, dépend de l’agriculture, mais où le reboisement s’est effectué à un rythme accéléré au cours des dernières décennies. En s’appuyant sur des recherches documentaires et des entrevues longues menées auprès d’acteurs locaux, les résultats indiquent que la résistance locale au reboisement est plus forte qu’on ne l’aurait soupçonné dans ce pays dont l’histoire est marquée par un déboisement massif. Entre autres, l’histoire des modes de tenure rurale en Irlande, les mesures institutionnelles mises en place pour réaliser le programme de reboisement, les essences forestières utilisées et l’aspect esthétique des peuplements forestiers, une fois établis, motivent cette résistance. La perception généralisée localement que la foresterie profite plus aux étrangers qu’aux résidants locaux serait sous-jacente à toutes ces motivations. Pourtant, cette étude documente également la perception que les responsables du programme ont répondu aux préoccupations locales et que la résistance au reboisement irait en diminuant, ainsi que les raisons de cette diminution. L’article se termine avec une discussion sur l’importance de l’histoire locale et de la participation communautaire dans le développement d’une foresterie socialement acceptable.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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