Sioned Jones - A Mentor for Us Growing More Native Trees?

all photos in this article by Sioned Jones

Justice or Regime Control?

Sioned Jones managed to get attention in the Irish media, and some UK media, despite the media focus being on Coronavirus, USA election, and post-Brexit developments.

To recap. the first headline was  'Sioned Jones convicted of stealing logs after 20 years of felling non-native trees in Cork'.

Sioned lives in the village of Kilkeal, near Bantry, famous for various ancient megalithic sites and the wonderful Future Forests nursery.

On land above her cottage, the state-owned forestry company Coillte planted a plantation of Sitka spruce, a non-native species that Sioned considered to be a 'dark, dank threat to biodiversity'..

So she got a chainsaw and started cutting, and cutting. She cut few trees at first, then dozens, then hundreds. Then in their place she planted native broadleaf trees, birch, hazel, oak, alder, crab apple and rowan. Sioned ended up engaged a 'guerrilla' re-wilding campaign that lasted more than 20 years.

At 61 years old Jones, Sioned was convicted of vandalism of a commercial forest and stealing some logs, the stripped cut trees, worth €500.

The judge did direct the jury to find Sioned not guilty of criminal damage to 500 Sitka spruce trees and sentencing for the stealing of the logs has been delayed until October.

Sioned explained  that she started felling after the plantation appeared in 1995, because the Sitka Spruce trees were casting a shadow over bilberry plants that she foraged from.

When she started, Sioned  used manual saws, later switched to mechanical saws and it was the noise of the chainsaw that brought attention to her and got her arrested.

Click here for one of the better reports of this taken from The Guardian


People Before Profit or Profit Before People?

Most media reported this case as Sioned being a vandal, and how dare she destroy private property. The media of the environmentalists were delighted and Sioned's public disobedience brought attention to the questions about Sitka Spruce plantation planting, their environmental impact, and the return of more native woodland forestry.

To me this reminded me of a recent quote by Donald Trump when he said the upcoming election was a choice of vote for America or for Socialism. I translate that as a vote for Profit before People vs vote for People Before Profit.

There is still a belief that Profit is essential to serve the needs and comfort of the people. Sadly the people making the Profit become addicted to the game, and use profit to make more profit rather than trickle it down to the people.

People Before Profit, Socialism, focuses on basic needs provision and near equality for people. It rides on  a belief that is similar to religious beliefs that teach 'God will provide' ... and, surprisingly, that often happens, even if it is usually at the last minute.

A lot of the first media blasting of this case seem to be targeted to the the 'How dare you' Profit supporters, who portrayed Sioned as some kind of brainless tree hugging, hippy vandal.


When a Genuine Forester Challenges 'Justice'.

There was an excellent follow up to this case published by Woodland League, probably written by Andrew St. Ledger.

The WL had informed Sioned's defence that her action was compatible with a Citizen’s right to a healthy environment as well as their duty to protect the environment in the face of a failure by the State or an agent of the State, in this case, Coillte,

Unfortunately the court refused to allow the Woodland League report to be used as expert evidence.

" A chainsaw in one hand and a burning log in the other hand", was the judge's exaggerated closing remarks to the jury. 

What Sioned had told the court was entirely the opposite. Sioned is a professional forester. I have met her a couple of times at the Future Forests nursery, by where she lives. The founding people and workers there were all professional foresters before commencing the nursery.

Sioned went planting the native trees with hands full of trees, spade, vermiculite, and an Iron bar to break the rocks in the holes, digging to ensure the young trees would have access to minerals, nutrients, water etc.

Sioned also went to the trouble of fencing off oak trees sprouted through the naturally carrier actions of the Jay birds.

Overall, Sioned demonstrated how well thought out, knowledgeable and caring her planting plan was. This is a huge contrast to the neglected, 100% Sitka spruce green desert, left to its own devices for over 20 years by Coillte. Sioned was stepping into a Biodiversity and management void and ensuring the State and Coillte , were fulfilling their National,EU and International obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and EU State aid rules in the National Forestry Programme 2014 to 2020.

To read more of the Woodland League response
click the Facebook post here 
and download the full report from their web page here


The Wonderful Bonding World of Woodland Partnerships

Sioned is now stating that she would like to work in partnership with Coillte through their new Coillte Nature programme.

Sioned has described how up to 20 years ago, above her cottage, was teeming with biodiversity and the wildflowers were buzzing with insects.

She has described how the spruce grows up and it grows sideways and becomes too dense to walk through. Where sitka spruce grows, meadows become ecological dead zones where before they were rich with biodiversity

Sioned's woodland activism started the same as my own. She was also a sitka spruce planter to earn good money. Like me she questioned the mad rush to plant many trees and hour, and what was this doing to the landscape and water?

She moved on into planting  broadleaf trees in spaces where she could give them the care they need and maintain a connection with them.

Sioned did buy some land with a friend, and they planted the whole land with native trees but once that was filled up it was not enough for Sioned. She wanted somewhere else to plant the native trees. So this was when she turned to the Coillte land by her cottage and started to convert the sitkas spruce trees for native broadleaved trees.


The Challenge Of Being an Earth Protector

Today, Sioned says her vision is to get permission from Coillte to plant small woodland on their land,  under their not for profit scheme, Coillte Nature, as this focuses on the environment and recreational forests.

She says,  Coillte need to improve biodiversity in their forests by increasing the amount of broadleaf and native planting. They manage 7% of the land in Ireland and the time has come for change. We need to move away from Sitka spruce which takes up over 50% of the forest area.

"As an earth protector, I acted on my conscience, to protect biodiversity against destruction. Concerned citizens have a duty of care to ensure that land and resources are used sustainably. I felt I could not stand back and watch while this ecosystem was destroyed by spruce. I had to act on my beliefs."

For the after case report, click here for the Journal.ie report

As 'Coillte Nature' seems to have an intent and opportunities that fit in with this Us And Trees Hub it is worth exploring them more. No web site or other information source yet.

Click for an introduction here

At present, it seems Coillte Nature is focused on Dublin Mountain woodlands, but for elsewhere.learn more and learn about Coillte Nature, contact Dr Ciarán Fallon: Ciaran.fallon@coillte.ie.

Personally, I would advise contacting Western forestry Co-Op first

to see how they can forward your ideas and passion for expanding native woodland forestry in Ireland. 

Us And Trees - Can We Share?

Read through this Us And Trees site for more ideas too. 

Has Sioned Jones inspired you to find land to grow a native tree woodland, and maybe get together with friends to achieve this. You do not need to do all of the planting either.

 Once you make a start, nature will bring trees and it's accompanying wildlife and flora.


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