People's Millennium Forest 2011-2021
The People’s Millennium Forest (PMF) was set up as a celebration of the commencement of the third Millennium. The long-term vision for the People’s Millennium Forests is to restore native Irish woodlands for people to experience and enjoy.
Ireland was once largely covered by impressive, majestic mixed forests of oak, ash, elm, Scots pine, yew and birch. These were our natural, native forests. But, over thousands of years, Ireland experienced almost total loss of its native woodlands as they were gradually cleared for agriculture. By 1900 A.D., less than 1% of the country was wooded. With this loss of woodland cover so too was much of our native woodland biodiversity – i.e. once the ancient forests disappeared, the plants and animals that lived in those forests also disappeared. Today, there are only small pockets of native woodland in our landscape – these are relics or reminders of the ancient forests that once covered the country.
The plan for the Peoples’ Millennium Forests Project is to restore former native woodlands at 16 sites around the country. This is being achieved by protecting, enhancing and expanding native woodand through ongoing management. The sites were carefully selected – some were selected because they are known to be relics of the native Irish forests of ancient times, while others are old native woodland sites located in attractive amenity locations, with the potential to create valuable native woodlands.
The project was initiated in 1999 and work on the selected woodlands commenced in 2000. The project is managed by Coillte, in partnership with Woodlands of Ireland, and sponsored by AIB, the National Millennium Committee, and The Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food.
What work was done on the People’s Millennium Forests?
During 2000/2001, restoration of former native woodland cover was achieved by:
- Removing non-native conifer trees that had been planted on some of the sites;
- Planting 1.3 million native trees and shrubs. The seeds used were collected from native woodlands in Ireland.
- Each sapling (i.e. young tree or shrub) planted was grown on and carefully nurtured at Coillte Nurseries.
- Perimeter fencing out to exclude grazing animals (particularly deer and livestock) – this is essential in order to protect the young planted trees;
- Removal of invasive shrubs such as Rhododendron and cherry laurel.
The Household Tree Scheme
At each of the People’s Millennium Forests, the young trees were planted in a grid system and each one was given a unique number. Subsequently, each household in the country was allocated a tree using this numbering system. During the year 2000, every household in the country received a certificate, outlining the number of their particular tree and where to go to locate it. The project team was asked to do this so that the people of Ireland would know that each household has part-share in the restored woodlands. The message was plain – these native woodlands are for the people of Ireland. Every household in the country can identify with a particular native woodland in this project.
But now, as we move into the second decade of the People’s Millennium Forests, the Household Tree Scheme is no longer practical as it has outgrown its purpose – see How do I find my tree below.
How do I find my tree?
The plan for the future of the millennium forests is that the family tree grids signs will be removed. This is because the trees planted in each grid are growing very fast and merging together into juvenile thickets in their ongoing development toward a native woodland ecosystem.
Each household will still be able to find which forest their tree was planted in but because of the natural processes toward the evolution of a mature native woodland community, it will not be possible to locate individual trees.
Peoples Millennium Forests – Vision for the Future
Coillte and Woodlands of Ireland are delivering upon the management objectives of the People’s Millennium Forests with a view to restoring and creating native woodlands.
These woodlands look wild because they are developing freely with all the richness and diversity that this entails.
14 of the woodland sites are located in the Republic of Ireland with a further 2 located in Northern Ireland.
6 of the sites lie within candidate Special Areas of Conservation –internationally recognised for their important woodland habitats
To locate the People’s Millennium Forest closest to you, please see http://www.millenniumforests.com/location.html