An area of forest adjacent to the Magho Cliffs viewpoint in Fermanagh has recently been harvested as part of the “ongoing sustainable forest management” of Lough Navar Forest, dramatically changing the appearance of the landscape in the process.

A number of Fermanagh residents have commented that the removal of the trees has negatively impacted the aesthetic of the area which is regarded as a local beauty spot.

After a recent visit to the view-point, Pauraig Ui Dhubhshlain from Enniskillen voiced his views: “Lough Navar is the most beautiful place on the planet. It has got this kind of panorama to it, the views are gorgeous.”

However Pauraig’s concerns go beyond the impact the removal of the trees has had on the aesthetic of the area. He is outraged that the Forest Service undertook the work whilst the country was in lockdown, calling it a “betrayal”.

“It’s not just the trees, it’s the way it was done.

“The Forest Service NI, they have this thing about selling trees at the top but they also have this thing about protecting wild spaces and you think, ‘this is crazy’.

“The other thing is the way they did it. They did it during lockdown, it was non-essential and they got people from another jurisdiction in to do it.”

“Everyone was in lockdown except for the NHS, only essential people go to work but not in the case of the Forest Service NI, they got people in from the Republic of Ireland. This is a betrayal. You go up there and you see this right in front of your eyes and you think this is an absolute betrayal,” commented Pauraig.

A spokesman from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said: “An area of forest adjacent to the Magho Cliffs view-point has been harvested as part of the ongoing sustainable forest management of Lough Navar Forest. It is estimated that 30,000 people visit the Magho view-point each year and Forest Service welcomes the local and wider interest in the future of this popular forest.”

The DAERA spokesman explained that harvesting of forest areas and their subsequent regeneration is carefully planned and enables Forest Service to “redesign the forests to provide a range of services to meet the needs of stakeholders in a balanced way”.

“These services include: enhancing the landscape, developing recreation opportunities, improving water quality and biodiversity as well as timber production.

“Sustainable forest management requires forest plans, including harvesting and regeneration, to be reviewed from time to time to ensure that forests can continue to provide for the diverse and sometimes competing needs of people, wildlife, and the economy.”

Consultation on the current forest plans for Lough Navar last took place in 2016, and are due to be reviewed within the next twelve months. “Stakeholders will be invited to participate in a forestry planning consultation and will be able to update Forest Service on their views about how the regeneration and landscaping of the harvested area at Magho should be achieved,” said the spokesman.

“The harvested trees have been sold to a wood processor for manufacture of wood products including construction timber, fencing, pallet and packaging, and in energy production, all of which help to sustain the rural economy,” the DAERA spokesman concluded.