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Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots MLA, recently visited a new large woodland creation project near Stranocum in North Antrim, which is funded by almost £450,000 from his Department.

The 50 hectare site is the largest scheme to benefit from the Forest Expansion Scheme to date and will receive approximately £445,000 over 10 years to create a woodland comprising 75% commercial conifers and 25% broadleaves.

As well as delivering significant carbon capture benefits the woodland will provide potential for tourism development, income from timber production, conserve and enhance local biodiversity and the landscape.

Minister Poots said: “It was a pleasure to meet with Mr and Mrs McConaghy to see how they moved their business from a long established dairy farm towards a significant woodland holding and the contribution this makes at this early stage in taking forward the Forests for Our Future programme. The 50 hectare site is the largest scheme to benefit from the Forest Expansion Scheme to date and I am delighted that my Department was able to contribute £445,000 over 10 years.

“Woodland creation is a simple low cost option to remove carbon from the atmosphere to help meet the UK’s Net Zero Carbon target by 2050. My Department is leading in the development of the Executive’s ‘Green Growth’ strategy, and ‘Forests for our Future’ will be one of its foundation programmes – so far, we’ve planted around 670,000 trees.

“This woodland will provide economic benefits to the farm, enhance the biodiversity of the local area and provide society with benefits derived through carbon capture, estimated to be around 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent captured over the next 40 years.”

Welcoming the woodland creation, Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Alderman Mark Fielding, said: “Climate change and our environment have been identified as one of Council’s key priorities in our updated Corporate Strategy and this project is an excellent example of the role our communities can play as well.

“The McConaghy family have embraced the opportunities offered by diversification and over the coming years this new woodland area will deliver a wide range of environmental and economic benefits for the area.”

Brian Malcomson, Senior Forestry Officer, Scottish Woodlands said: “Scottish Woodlands Ltd have worked closely with David and Hazel McConaghy from the initial design concept through to planting to ensure that the woodland meets their objectives. Woodland can be a great land-use option.”