Here come the rainforests again: €12m project aims for ambitious restoration

A West Clare environmental group is working with local communities and landowners to encourage the reintroduction of native woodland

Ray Ó Foghlú, project lead, and Matt Smith, chief executive of Hometree, at the first Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project site at Knockaunbaun, Maam, Co Galway. Picture: Cathal Noonan

An environmental charity has launched a €12 million project to restore more than 4,000 acres of land across eight sites in the west of Ireland in order to create a temperate rainforest.

Hometree, a not-for-profit environmental organisation based in west Clare, said its Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project aims to establish and conserve permanent temperate rainforests by facilitating the natural regeneration of woodlands.

It will do this by removing grazing pressure, fencing off remnant pockets of forest to allow them to expand, and planting trees where it makes ecological sense to do so.

The group said the ambitious forest restoration project will be implemented on 2,000 acres of land owned directly by Hometree, along with a further 2,000 acres owned by adjoining landowners that it wishes to collaborate with.

The group has allocated a budget of €2.4 million for working with local communities and landowners to encourage them to introduce native woodland features on their farms or amenity areas.

The organisation recently launched the first phase of the Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project, after it purchased a 280-acre site in Knockaunbaun in Connemara’s Gaeltacht region. It said the area has been overgrazed to the point where as few as ten native trees remain on the entire land bank, and that it now plans to reforest the area with native woodland trees over the next four years.

Although most of its support has come from public donations, Hometree has recently collaborated on woodland creation projects with Medtronic, the medical device manufacturer, Deloitte, the professional services firm, and Meta, the social media giant.

The group has issued a call to raise additional capital to fund the continued roll-out of the project, and is inviting public, private and corporate partners to join the initiative.

Ray Ó Foghlú, project lead with Hometree, said the organisation was founded four years ago and started as a grassroots movement.

“We’ve really evolved the organisation in the last year and grown our income streams from private backers, as well as securing €231,000 from the Department of Agriculture as part of a European Innovation Partnership to work with local farmers and plant 30,000 native trees,” Ó Foghlú told the Business Post.

“The organisation generated revenues of about €420,000 last year, and that allowed us to raise enough capital from the bank to commence phase one of the Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project. To complete the project, we’re looking to raise the rest of the €12 million funding target from philanthropic, corporate and private backers.

“Our goal ultimately is ecosystem restoration, carbon sequestration in the forests and building natural capital. This isn’t a project where we’re going to sell the carbon credits to large corporates,” Ó Foghlú said.

Historically, up to 80 per cent of the land area in Ireland was covered in wild forests of birch, pine and oak. Today, only 1 per cent of the land area remains in rainforests, which cling on in gullies, cliff faces and secluded islands, according to Hometree.

“The Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project is all about creating woodlands where they once existed. Our vision for the spaces is not limited to woodland creation – we’ll also restore blanket bogs, species-rich grasslands, and hopefully support vibrant human communities,” Matt Smith, chief executive of Hometree, said.

“This is a unique opportunity to build climate resilience and repair our connection with nature. The natural habitat of our western uplands is temperate rainforests, a unique and complex ecosystem with flora and fauna that only exists in five or six parts of the world. It would be fantastic to see some of it restored,”

IFI Funded Projects (2021)

2021 funding call grants for the SSTCPF and MFF Schemes

Brett’s Weir, Nore, Kilkenny

The GPS location is (653017.096, 654659.02m)

The weir is still in use with water being abstracted to generate electricity which is used to power a saw mill with the remaining power being sold to the grid. The water in the headrace is used to power a generator which I turn generates power for this sawmill.

The River Nore is an important salmon river. The weir at Brett’s causes a delay in fish moving upstream to reach their spawning grounds. This delay can have major problems for individual fish and the species population due to predation, loss of eggs, loss of available spawning gravels, and overuse of spawning gravels downstream of the weir.

Tender: Brett’s Weir – The Construction of a Rock Ramp Fish Pass at Brett’s Weir on the River Nore, Co. Kilkenny.

Dawros River Catchment Management Plan

Dawros River in Letterfrack, more commonly known as the Kylemore River locally.

  • request management plan

River Deel at Askeaton

€105,000 in funding for the preparation of detailed reports and design for the removal or improvement of fish passage at four weirs on the River Deel at Askeaton. Plan will open up 40 kilometres of main river channel and 100 kilometres of tributaries for migrating fish species such as salmon, sea trout, eels and lamprey.

2021 concerns that salmon smolt are being mangled in the hydro-electric turbine run by the Kingspan Aeroboard company

Riddlestown Stream Rehabilitation (River Deel)

€10,000 to West Limerick Deel Anglers for appropriate assessment screening and detailed in-river habitat management plans. These plans help inform appropriate measures and rehabilitation for salmon and sea trout habitats, which is being proposed as part of the Riddlestown stream rehabilitation works.

Save the Boyne (Dawn Meats Campaign)

Save the Boyne group and local Boyne Valley residents campaign to prevent company Dawn Meats from releasing commercial waste water into the river.

Objections to the planning process can be lodged in writing to Meath County Council (quoting application: 21424) until Thursday April 7th.

Submission from Sonairte is useful as brings all the information into one document (can be hard to locate the information on the relevant authority websites)

Dawn Meats EPA License



How to submit an AIE for water testing data on your local river

When making a request for information under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations you are required to:

  • state that the application is being made under the AIE Regulations and submit it in writing or electronic form
  • provide your contact details
  • state, in terms that are as specific as possible, the environmental information required, and specify the form and manner of access desired

Normally you will be notified of the decision on your request within 1 month of its receipt.


“Under the AIE Regs to request details of water testing on the Gweebarra River between X Bridge & Y Bridge for 2020 to 2022”

Submit to AND to the relevant local authority AIE officer

You can ask for the data outside of AIE, here’s a contact list for the Local Authorities. But if you don’t get a response you have no right to review and/or appeal to OIC

The reception team at ERA on are very helpful, and will always find you the correct person to ask, so I always recommend asking first (outside of the AIE process)

Water Abstraction: Interactions with the Water Framework Directive & Groundwater Directive and Implications for the Status of Ireland’s Waters

Source: SWAN

The lack of coherent and comprehensive regulations on water abstraction in Ireland is in breach of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and must be rectified to ensure compliance. New legislation must be enacted to ensure the responsibilities of the state are conducted. The aim of this research project is to provide SWAN and member organisations with:

– An assessment of the impacts of abstraction on surface water, groundwater and
groundwater-dependant terrestrial ecosystems;
– An overview of relevant policy and legislation pertaining to water abstraction in Ireland;
– A qualitative survey of relevant stakeholders to inform on abstraction management; and
– Recommendations for effective measures, under the WFD, to control abstractions.

Currently, the available information on water abstraction is not sufficient to accurately characterise its impacts in Ireland. The location of abstraction points and the volumes that are abstracted for the majority of abstraction points on both a total and temporal basis are unknown. This makes it impossible to accurately assess the impacts of abstraction on a local or regional scale. Any legislation that is enacted must address this data gap and provide accurate information on which sound management decisions can be based.

EPA investigation into turf cutting on SACs

The Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] has accepted a complaint from a conservation charity under the Environmental Liability Directive [ELD] and is undertaking an investigation into turf cutting on Ireland’s raised bog Special Areas of Conservation.


April 2021

The NPWS proposal for a “peer review” of Rhododendron control/eradication in Killarney National Park arose following a complaint to the European Commission by Groundwork Conservation Volunteers. The Groundwork complaint contended that a widespread significant deterioration had occurred in the conservation status of the Habitat Directive Annex I oakwood habitat in the west of Killarney National Park which constituted a breach of 92/43/EEC Article 6(2).

The habitat deterioration was caused by a deterioration in the rhododendron status of c.350ha of the western oakwoods which were cleared and maintained clear (sensu Irish Wildlife Manual No.33) of rhododendron by Groundwork in the period 1981 to 2005. This deterioration occurred when the woods in question were managed according to the procedures and methods then applied by KNP subsequent to the termination of the Groundwork maintenance.

In April 2017 NPWS contacted Mr Colin Edwards (Environment Policy Advisor at Scottish Forestry) stating that NPWS “is currently reviewing its strategy and methods for rhododendron management in Killarney National Park” and further stating “There has been some recent criticism of the progress and efficacy of the National Park’s management programme, and there is now a need for the most recent strategy to be
reviewed.” Mr Edwards’ immediate response to the initial short email was that he would be “happy in principle to act as an external reviewer”. A series of communications were exchanged between Mr Edwards and NPWS over several months, but Mr Edwards entered into no agreement to participate in the project (as revealed in AIE records). Nevertheless, in answer to a parliamentary question on 14 July 2020, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin (briefed presumably by NPWS) stated, “Despite agreement to participate from an independent overseas expert, it has subsequently not proved possible for him to undertake the review.”

“Happy in principle” (having received a six-line introductory email) and an “agreement to participate” are not the same thing.

In its UNESCO Biosphere Review of 2017, NPWS committed to an independent peer review to examine current rhododendron management practice in KNP. The review stated, “There has been some disagreement between the National Park authority and two stakeholder NGOs concerning the effectiveness of the maintenance programme …It is therefore planned to address this by … peer review of management practice…”

In its 2019 letter to the EU attempting to refute GW’s second formal complaint, NPWS stated that it had “put in place measures to provide independent expert review and advice on the rhododendron programme in Killarney National Park”.

In its letter to the Irish Times of 27 May 2019 NPWS stated, “This Department has also already commenced the process of a peer review ..” In her answer to the parliamentary question on 14 July 2020 Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin stated “the NPWS contracted an expert environmental company to undertake part 1 and 2 of this review. This work is now under way. The NPWS is open, and indeed is expecting, that the review will look at all relevant methods, issues and approaches, including that of the group mentioned by the Deputy.” We are aware that MKO is the expert environmental company referred to by the Minster and we believe that the “group” mentioned in the PQ
response is Groundwork.

On 6 August 2020 Groundwork was informed by Dr Philip Buckley (NPWS) that “The Peer Review is ongoing and currently under preparation by the consultants …” On 5 October 2020 Mr Trevor Donnelly (NPWS) further informed Groundwork that “the scope/approach of the review was finalised with the consultants in July 2019”. From the outset NPWS has emphasised the preeminent importance of the independent / external aspect of the proposed review. In February 2019 NPWS stated to the Irish Times “We hope it will be a fundamental and thorough review of all aspects of the work on rhodo in Killarney. We intend to bring the Groundwork reports (and work) to the attention of the reviewer(s), but exactly what they will focus on we can’t say or dictate.” In May 2019 NPWS informed MKO that “The review should seek to document what work has been done in KNP over the years, and determine as quantitively as possible how effective or not that has been. Both the strategy, programme and specific measures should be reviewed/evaluated. …Given we want it to be an ‘external process’, what how you go about/structure (sic) the review after that may be largely for you to decide.”

Given the independent /external nature of the review; given the stated centrality of Groundwork’s methods, programmes and views to the review; given that Groundwork’s methods, programmes and views have over a period of years been consistently and publicly criticised/ rejected by NPWS; and given that eighteen months after the scope/approach of the review was finalised no contact has yet been made with Groundwork by the reviewers, it would appear that Groundwork’s methods, programmes and views have been channelled/ articulated to the consultants by NPWS. This is obviously inappropriate as it nullifies the review, the primary purpose of which is to serve as independent enquiry.

To redress this, we have compiled the present submission