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Reimagining The Great Forest of Aughty

Updated: Apr 4

“Re-Imagining The Great Forest of Aughty" is a Symposium/Meitheal focused on this Upland Native Woodland Restoration Project, a Farmer/Community/NGO/State/Partnership approach with multiple benefits for East Clare & South Galway. The project has support from the NPWS and from Clare and Galway Biodiversity Officers. This event was hosted and an initiative by the Woodland League. CELT supported this excellent Woodland League event and we continue to work in partnership with them to move forward their Great Forest of Aughty initiative. 

We are delighted to host this cross-cultural and community exchange exploring the Indigenous Forest management traditions of North America with Special guests Ron Waukau & Mc Kaylee Duquain, forest managers of the Menominee Nation.

Known as "The Keepers of the Forest" , the Menominee hold a wealth of culture & tradition around the sustainable management and utilisation of their diverse & flourishing forest which is rooted in their deep connection with it.

They will share with us some of this wealth of forest tradition as a way to inform & inspire the next phase of The Great Forest of Aughty and its potential multiple benefits for local farmers, communities and nature. The Woodland League have presented the Menominee “close to nature“ forestry management model as one of the best examples to replicate for many years.

"The Menominee people believed that their land was their sacred body, the values of their culture are their soul, and the water is their blood. Therefore to the Menominee, the forest and its living creatures are viewed as food for their very existence ."

What is the Great Forest of Aughty?

The Great Forest of Aughty is a legendary Forest, beloved of Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland, located in the Sliabh Aughty mountains, straddling East Clare and South Galway. It is steeped in tradition, lore and myth and connected to one of the most ancient Gaelic poems concerning the mountain being gifted as a dowry for the wedding of Princess Echtge of the Tuatha de Danann. In a time when the forest was the foundation of the Gaelic society, which lasted approximately 2000 years, with its unique Brehon Laws and Ogham Alphabet of the Trees, Centres of Learning, Craftspeople, and Poets.

It is a Forest that is fundamental to Irish culture, people and nature, thankfully, there are still remnant pockets of this ancient forest intact but they are under pressure.

Schedule:

Saturday, the 22nd of July,

Location: Cnoc na Gaoithe Cultural Centre, Tulla, East Clare

10am. Opening Event : Recitation of the Ancient poem, Sliabh Echtga that describes the naming of the Aughty Mountain.

10.15 am Menominee Forestry History and Current Management Presentation.

MTE manages 230,000 acres of forested tribal lands, as well as a saw mill. The forestry department is responsible for the day-to day operational and management of the forest. The four departments of Inventory, Silviculture, Harvest Preparations, and Timber Harvest Administration are directly responsible for the two year long process to harvest trees, and the other three departments of Forest Health, Fire Preparedness, and Fuels exist for other support on the forest. Harvesting is based on an ever changing schedule for the different stands across the reservation and is key in maintaining sustainable forestry, especially for our areas of old growth forest. We use this schedule to examine stands for maturity. If stands are mature, we decide what treatment is best based on tree age, species, composition, and soils. If an area is not mature, its harvest year is delayed; and recently harvested areas are given a new harvest year based on the treatment type. Forest Health primarily deals with invasive species challenge, Fuels is in charge of mechanical hazard fuel reduction and prescribed fire applications, and Fire Preparedness to suppress any wildland fires.

The state of Wisconsin was once completely clear cut for its timber, but the Menominee forest was spared. Now we are in charge of caring for this forest, and it is up to us to make sure that we make the right decisions for not just the current generation, but those who will inherit the forest when we are gone.


Ron Waukau: I am an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation, and have lived my whole live on the reservation. I began my long career at Menominee Tribal Enterprises in 1988. Over the decades, positions I have served include Timber Marker, Lead Timber Marker, Fuels Specialist, Interim Fire management Officer, Inventory Forest Technician, and currently Forest Manager. Working in a variety of positions within different departments allowed me to gain experience across the whole of Forestry and rapport with staff.

I did not pursue secondary education, however I have learned so much with my opportunity to work on the forest, and learned things that could never be taught in the classroom. I now use these lessons to manage the forest as well as maintain a good relationship with my staff who are integral to the forest process.

Outside of work, I find myself returning to the forest where I enjoy hunting, fishing, and gathering.

McKaylee Duquain: I am an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation, and I was raised on the reservation until I left to further my education. Upon completing my undergraduate degree, I returned home to work on my forest. I began working with Menominee Tribal Enterprises on a Continuous Forest Inventory Project, which transitioned into a permanent Inventory Forester position. With a desire to continue my education and experience, I left home once again to pursue graduate school. After being away from home for two years paired with a pandemic, I jumped at the first opportunity to return home to work on my forest again. This brings me to my current position, which I was formerly supervised by, head of Inventory within the Forestry Department at Menominee Tribal Enterprises.

Aside from my work at forestry, I still spend a lot of time outdoors, including a lot of camping and hiking. When the season is right, I enjoy foraging for various plants and mushrooms. I also am a basket weaver and harvest black ash trees to process the materials for baskets, though that tradition is being threatened by the emerald ash borer. I love to travel when I get the opportunity, but at the end of the day it feels so good to be home.


11.30 tea break


Followed by


11.45am Great Forest of Aughty

Andrew St Ledger, PRO and Co founder of The Woodland League dedicated to restoring the relationship between people and their native woodlands, will give a presentation onThe Great Forest of Aughty, a 21 st century plan to restore these remnant pockets of Ancient Woodland by preserving them, by uniting the woodlands along the waterways and creating vibrant riparian forest corridors protecting the streams and rivers. It is our intention to allow the Ancient Forest Ecosystem/Biodiversity magic to move along the rivers, streams, restoring flora and fauna, aquatic life and communities. Ancient Woodland is the most valuable habitat for land based Biodiversity.


Andrew St. Ledger is a Dublin born artist, wood sculptor, furniture maker, forest / environment activist who features in the documentary “Call of the Forest”. http://calloftheforest.ca/ Andrew is Public Relations Officer and was co-founder in 2002, with Ted Cook, of The Woodland League - a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to restoring the relationship between people and their native woodlands. Andrew has been actively restoring native forest on his own land in east Clare since 2007 as part of "The Great Forest of Aughty" Native-Forest Restoration plan which he envisioned. He has also created The Woodland League "Forest in a Box" native trees for national schools project, which answers the “Call of the Forest” film's main message for global grassroots native forest restoration. He is a Native Woodlands tutor with CELT(the Centre for Environmental Living and Training) and is their Environmental Pillar representative focused on forestry, and is a member of COFORD, the Irish Forestry Council. Andrew conducts forest walks and talks to raise awareness of the value of Native forests, is an advisor/consultant for Native Woodland projects and creator/author of “Know Your Native Trees” education modules, and the recent CELT/Woodland League Introduction to Agroforestry Handbook. He has also been involved with the Yale School of Forestry. series of Forest Dialogues supporting Indigenous peoples and communities affected by negative impacts of tree plantations, in Chile, South Africa, Brazil, and New Zealand.

1pm Lunch break until 1.45

1.45 Brian Boru Tree Planting Ceremony

After lunch we plan to plant a heritage oak tree in a restored orchard, the tree is grown from seed collected from a famous 1000 year old oak tree named after a great Irish High King called Brian Boru who is of this area and lived 1000 years ago, there is an ideal place to do this at the traditional Irish music venue, the community cultural centre called Cnoc na Gaoithe, the windy hill which the town of Tulla is also called after, https://www.cnocnagaoithe.com/


Tulla has been inhabited and of strategic importance since ancient times, probably BC. The settlement was originally a circular walled enclosure on top of the hill, where the ruined church and cemetery is https://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/tulla_history.htm


To mark this important cross cultural occasion, we plan to have a small ceremony involving the four elements, and Menominee contribution to coincide with the planting and we will water the tree with water from an ancient spring nearby and dedicate the tree to all the local people who passed away or had to leave their homes during and after the famine, An Gort Mor, 1845-1848.The venue manager, a local woman was very enthusiastic and excited about our plans for hosting the Menominee at their new venue and planting a Brian boru oak tree, grown from acorns collected from the famous 1000 year old oak in Tuamgraney, in the grounds of the venue.


2.15 Dr Paul Rondelez : The impact of the blast furnace on the Sliabh Aughty Woodlands in the 17th and 18th centuries


At the beginning of the Plantation Period in Ireland, around 1600, the Sliabh Aughties had largely retained its original woodland cover. This was mainly a result of the Shannon river not being navigable below Killaloe, which meant that timber transport was not profitable. This changed with the introduction of the charcoal-fueled blast furnace in the early 17th century. The area contains areas of rich iron ores and much of the woodlands would be converted to charcoal to feed these fuel-hungry furnaces. This talk will offer a bitter-sweet balance between lamenting the disappearance of the woods and a fascination for the industry which caused it.


Dr Paul Rondelez


Paul obtained his Master degree with a thesis on the Iron Age and Roman iron industry in Belgium at Ghent University. In 2001, he came to Ireland to work as an archaeologist in Ireland and in 2009 embarked on a doctoral dissertation on Late Medieval iron production in Ireland. During this research, he came across copious references to 17th and 18th century blast furnaces of which the Sliabh Aughty area contains the best preserved group of remains of that period, possibly globally. In 2014 the Sliabh Aughty Furnace Project was launched, studying these remains and their history. Today, Paul is a consultant metallurgical archaeologist.


3pm Bob Wilson CELT Coordinator will talk about the work of CELT the centre for environmental living and training who support The Great Forest of Aughty plan and are active in the Aughty area.


3.15 pm Nia O' Malley is an organic farmer in the Aughty area will talk about the work of her local community group Lough Atorick Restoration Association


3,30 Sarah Jay is a small holder in the Aughty area will give a short presentation on their local community river/woodland restoration initiative Abhainn Da` Loilioch Group


3.45 Joe Gowran, CEO of Woodlands of Ireland, dedicated to native and semi native woodlands, will speak about the work of the organisation and the different grant opportunities and supports available for native woodland creation and restoration.


4pm Ken Bucke Forestry Inspector Environment of the Forest Service, will speak about the native woodlands and water policy and benefits/opportunities.


4.15 Tracy O' Hara consultant with the new ACRES farming scheme in the Aughties will talk about the scheme and its connection to the results based Hen Harrier and Burren Beo EIP (European Innovation Partnerships) projects which involved a huge buy in from Clare farmers.


4.30 We end with a speaker panel Q and A from the floor


9.30 Sunday 23rd July

The following day we plan to take a coach from Tulla at 9.30 and visit some of the larger remnant ancient Aughty oakwoods to have an exploratory discussion led by the Menominee sharing how they would approach managing the Aughty oakwoods in order to guide future sustainable management plans for the Great Forest of Aughty and at one of these oakwoods in the afternoon, Andrew St Ledger, Woodland League will lead a walk and talk explaining how these oakwoods were historically utilised 1000 years ago under the Brehon judgements of neighbourhood, Bretha Comaithchesa, explaining the Brehon Tree lists/classification with fines and penalties for wilfully damaging different species of tree in order of importance, and the use of the forest in times of war, in the time of Brian Boru. This will cover the multiple uses, goods and services which the oakwoods provided, which in effect was the foundation for a very effective Treeconomy and Gaelic society. Peter Beaumont, a Woodland League Director will contribute his extensive knowledge of woodland birds and plants. The unique Ogham alphabet of the trees will be touched on and comparisons with Menominee forest crafts, traditions and uses etc. Peter Beaumont, a Woodland League, Director will contribute with his extensive knowledge of woodland birds and plants. We will also have long bow making, wood pole lathe bowl making and greenwood craft furniture and basket making demonstrations going on in the woods.


More information on the Menominee.






Tickets:

There is a limited number of 50 tickets for the full two day event.

The full price for a two day ticket is 90 Euro (Saturday and Sunday). This also includes a light lunch on Saturday.


Registrations:


**Should you be in need of accommodation, there are a few options to consider nearby:

Cnoc na gaoithe in Tulla. The venue has rooms for 35 EU pet night.

Loughnanes hostel in Feakle might have beds in dorms and rooms.

Lady Gregory and O Sullivans hotels in Gort or hotels in Ennis are the best options in the area.**


Additional Background Information on The Great Forest of Aughty


It is a Forest that is fundamental to Irish culture, people and nature, thankfully, there are still remnant pockets of this ancient forest intact but they are under pressure.

The vision.

It is our vision to restore these remnant pockets of Ancient Woodland by preserving them, by uniting the woodlands along the waterways and creating vibrant riparian forest corridors protecting the streams and rivers.

It is our intention to allow the Ancient Forest Ecosystem/Biodiversity magic to move along the rivers, streams, restoring flora and fauna, aquatic life and communities.

Ancient Woodland is the most valuable habitat for land based Biodiversity.

Why is it the Great Forest of Aughty project necessary?

This project is necessary on many levels:

It will ensure natural biodiversity by natural regeneration and planting indigenous trees and restoring the forest ecosystem, a complex habitat for the local flora and fauna.

It will restore the waterways and waters as well as prevent erosion by means of the root systems and filtering ability of the trees along the waterways.

It will benefit the farmers by improving the soil quality on their land, preventing the loss of farmland due to soil erosion, creating animal shelter from wind and heat, providing additional income, from craftwood, wood fodder, firewood, via sustainable management.

It is a replicable project that can be implemented all over Ireland as well as other countries.

The Great Forest of Aughty is a fundamental part of Irish mythology, legends and culture and restoring it will also mean restoring the flow of magic along the sacred sites/heritage that are still alive within these lands.

Who will the project benefit?

The implementation of this Vision will benefit the Farmers, Communities, Nature, Soil and Water, by building Landscape and Community Resilience in the face of Climate/Economic/Energy threats. It will also link the Past, Present and Future through the trees, older, younger and newer.

Why is this talk important for people all over Ireland and not just Co. Clare?

The Great Forest of Aughty Restoration plan is Replicable and can be used by people to find the footprint of their Ancient Forests in their local areas.

It can also act as a Pilot flagship project that can be followed by communities to assist restoring Native Forests along all the waterways of Ireland creating a Riparian Arboreal Matrix for Nature to heal itself.

Watch the animation video about the Great Forest of Aughty here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olPlB8YCiTY


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