CONSERVATIONISTS in Macroom have hit out at what one described as an ‘ethically depraved assault’ on the Gearagh nature reserve.
The submerged woodland area is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and was created when ancient Irish oak woodland was flooded to facilitate the building of the hydro-electric dams in Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra in the 1950s.
The area suffered damage during Storm Ophelia, with many trees knocked or damaged.
Much of the Gearagh is managed by the ESB and Ted Cook, a spokesperson for Macroom District Environmental Group, blasted the company’s activity in the area in the aftermath of the storm. “The ESB sent in workers without notice or reference and I calculate hundreds of trees have been destroyed,” he said.
“They were first thrashed by the bucket of the machine and then a second machine came in with a huge rotary blade and cut out the torn, shredded trees.”
Mr Cook said he had been contacted by a number of locals who were devastated by the damage, with one describing it as ‘butchery’.
He also emphasised the importance of the area to the environment. “This pathway is an internationally acknowledged ecosystem. It is acknowledged by Europe as in danger of disappearance and that is why it is a priority Special Area of Conservation, supported by the United Nations.”
However, the ESB said they had done only what work was necessary in the interests of public safety. “There were 12 trees that were knocked down or severely damaged on the public carriageway on the Inchigeela road (R584) from the Gearagh car park to Toon Bridge,” a spokesperson said.
“On the public walkway which crosses from the Gearagh car park to the Kilmichael car park, upwards of 40 trees had either been damaged or had fallen on the walkway.
“ESB assessed both incidents as posing a significant risk to public safety and moved to make safe the areas in a timely manner and also in advance of Storm Brian.