The community has been asked to respond to a public consultation on plans of the Forestry Service for north Antrim.
Chief Forest Officer Malcolm Beatty said: “As our forests develop as places of industry, environment and leisure, we are encouraging everyone to make their feelings known.
“Within 15 miles of Ballymena, there are two of Northern Ireland’s leading forest parks.
“On the banks of the River Bann is Portglenone Forest Park. Next year marks the 60th anniversary of Portglenone Forest Park opening to the public. Readers will be familiar with the magnificent bluebells each spring that draw thousands of people each year.
“To the west of Ballymena in the heart of the Glens is Glanariff Forest Park. Glenariff, the “Queen of the Glens”, is one of the nine Antrim glens. Glenariff Forest Park covers over 1,000 hectares with planted woodland, lakes, outdoor recreation spaces and conservation areas.
“Glenariff Forest Park caters for many outdoor activities including walking, horse-riding and caravanning. In 2016, a major investment built new caravanning facilities and camping. It has picnic and barbeque areas as well as a tea house.”
Forest Service regularly reviews its plans so that it continues to meet the diverse needs of people, wildlife and industry. Within the last plan, Forest Service produced an average of 62,000 tonnes of timber each year from County Antrim forests to supply the timber processing industry.
It also regenerated 1,026 hectares of forest land after clear fell, and planted over 2.2 million trees from 2011 until 2017.
Download the document www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations/scoping-new-forestry-plan-antrim-area-forests-and-woodland. Respond to the scoping document [https://consultations. nidirect.gov.uk/daera-forest-service/scoping-a-new-forestry-plan-for-antrim-fpa
The consultation will run from March 30 until May 18.
The consultation paper reviews achievements under the current plan. Under each of 11 scoping topics, it identifies opportunities where forest plans could be improved, and suggests how this might be taken forward.
Views and opinions can be expressed about any of the topic areas presented in the scoping document to advise the Forestry Planning team of specific interests or concerns.
The scoping topic areas cover forestry effects on landscapes, rivers and lakes; the enjoyment of forests by people; new forests, sustainable forests and supplying sustainable wood products; and conservation of forestry lands.
Mr Beatty added: “This consultation covers forests from Somerset to Woodburn, with Ballymena at the heart of this area. Forests are a vital natural resource which belong to us all, and it is particularly important that those in Ballymena and beyond have their say on the development plans.”
You are also invited to share any information held by you or your organisation that may be relevant to forestry planning.