The Last Stand

It is local wisdom that once you turn agricultural land over to forestry you have given up on the land. It is an act of despair, a giving up on making a living from raising cattle or a bit of horticulture. Over the years 50% of agricultural land in County Leitrim has been turned over to monoculture Sitka spruce plantations. The county that spear-headed the ban on fracking in Ireland is now taking on forestry. Read more about the campaign on Save Leitrim website http://saveleitrim.ie/.

We have a Sitka spruce plantation just across our lane. We may live in West Cavan, but we have a lot of forestry that has been planted over the years here, too. But we have avoided the clear cutting of it when it comes to harvest time. Enter the red squirrel. Which we see now and again round the neighbourhood and has been making a come back west of the River Shannon.

Irish Red Squirrel Conserve Ireland
Image found on ConserveIreland.com

The Irish red squirrel (aka Sciurus vulgaris , aka Iora Rua ) is an endangered species and therefore has its habitat protected. A timely sighting of our furry friends, reported to the local Conservation officer, put paid to any clear cutting the plantation over the road. Because red squirrels feed on both deciduous and spruce trees. So they cut half of it in 2010, replanted it with a combination of spruce and broadleaved species, and then waited for their food stock to mature some before coming back for the (now very elderly, nearly 60 year old) trees left.

Last Stand

For months they have shaved away
at the half-plantation
we prevented
being clear-cut
(because the red squirrel
living off these trees
is a protected species.)

They came for them eight years on,
lumbering day and night.
They took the trees
some storm left standing
at 45 degrees
(bent like that for years)
their machines shearing

before dawn and after dark,
in all weathers, in snow,
in torrent,
even Storm Eric -
until I can almost
see the Playbank's rump
rising above stumps.

There is one last stand of trees
who have been our neighbours
for nearly these
seventeen years,
sheltering between
two drumlins rising,
those trees, their being.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

The last stand
The view across from our home last week.
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