SGN Natural Gas has announced a major initiative to plant 7,000 trees in the heart of its new network area in the west of Northern Ireland.
The company is providing 4,000 trees in the initial phase of the project. The wooded wonderland will be located on approximately 2.5 hectares at Crom in Co. Fermanagh. An additional 3,000 trees will be planted in the network area by the end of 2022 and as a result, SGN Natural Gas will have planted a new tree for every domestic gas meter installed by that date.
IndiWoods, the woodland consultancy which has planted over one million trees in Northern Ireland during the past 16 years, is overseeing the exciting project. Preparatory work is already underway and the first phase of planting will resume at Crom in the autumn.
Tree planting is recognised as one of the most engaging, environmentally friendly activities that people can take part in to protect the planet. Trees provide shade and shelter for wildlife, prevent water pollution and reduce soil erosion to name but a few of the benefits. Trees can also help fight climate change by purifying the air and releasing oxygen through carbon capture.
A new Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland is currently being developed which will run until 2050 and take account of the UK government's commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by that deadline. Offsetting energy-related emissions is expected to form part of the approach, and by planting a new tree for every domestic gas meter installed, SGN Natural Gas is contributing to the realisation of this target.
Danny O’Malley, Director of SGN Natural Gas, said the company was committed to enhancing biodiversity in its network area and supporting the creation of new natural habitats that are accessible to local communities.
He said: “We're extremely pleased to be gifting a total of 7,000 trees to help create a native woodland in the heart of our network area.”
“Woodlands can be enjoyed by so many as both a recreational and educational resource, bringing together people of all ages and encouraging healthy outdoor activities from walking to bird watching which can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being as well as the rich environmental dividends delivered for our countryside.”
Mr. O’Malley added: “The Crom estate, located on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, is one of the most tranquil and picturesque places in Northern Ireland; it is also one of the most important conservation areas. We are both privileged and excited to be embarking on this new initiative in partnership with IndiWoods and look forward to our tree planting resuming later in the year, subject to government and public health guidance in relation to COVID-19 allowing all such activity to continue safely for everyone.”
Carolyn Trimble of IndiWoods said the initiative was to be welcomed, pointing out that the Woodland Trust has indicated Northern Ireland needs to significantly increase tree planting. It is the least wooded area in the UK (8%) and native woodland accounts for just 3%. The conservation charity recently published its Emergency Tree Plan which sets out how the UK can rapidly increase tree cover to help reach net-zero carbon emissions and tackle the declines in wildlife.
She explained: “Northern Ireland would need to plant 2,000 hectares of trees a year to hit an existing target of 12% cover by 2050. In 2018/2019 only 240 hectares were planted in Northern Ireland. IndiWoods is committed to planting native woodlands throughout Northern Ireland and welcomes the opportunity to plant trees on behalf of SGN Natural Gas. Native woodlands enhance our lives in so many ways including providing valuable wildlife habitats, enhancing our landscape and combatting flooding, all in addition to storing carbon and producing oxygen.”
“Tree planting keeps us physically fit and active and surrounding ourselves with trees and nature reduces anxiety and stress, a fantastic boost for our mental well-being. IndiWoods is looking forward to planting native Irish trees in beautiful Fermanagh in the autumn and we are excited to be part of this fantastic initiative.”
As a direct result of tree planting already carried out on other projects, IndiWoods has increased and improved the habitats throughout Northern Ireland for an abundance of species such as owls, birds, otters, bats, red squirrels, pine martin, bees and many more small mammals, flora and fauna.
Natural gas is seen as a pathway to an affordable, gradually decarbonised future that can deliver significant environmental benefits for everyone in Northern Ireland as we all ultimately move to a target net-zero carbon environment by 2050. As natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available, conversion to this energy source will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as offer a more efficient fuel option to businesses, the public sector and domestic consumers alike.
Bringing natural gas to the west of Northern Ireland marks the culmination of one of the most significant energy infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the province. Representing an investment of over £250million, the project has the potential to meet the energy needs of up to 40,000 homes and businesses across Counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry~Londonderry over the next 40 years.