Forests a fantastic resource - Lyons

DAERA Minister Gordon Lyons has said that Northern Ireland’s forests are a fantastic natural resource, making a major contribution to tourism and recreation, in addition to their many health and well-being benefits.

Minister Lyons was welcoming the findings from a recent visitor survey commissioned by the Forest Service, which showed there are almost nine million visits to woodlands annually, with 98% of visitors rating their visit as good to excellent.

The survey also identified the important role that forests play in encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles, with approximately half of all visitors responding that they had visited for health or exercise reasons.

Welcoming the findings, Minister Lyons said: “Our forests are a vital community resource, providing recreation spaces for people to meet, exercise and enjoy their beautiful surroundings.

“Nine million visits is a staggering number and a hugely encouraging measure of the value that people associate with our forests.

“The many new and improved visitor facilities developed in forests during the last five years has resulted in a significant rise not just in visitor numbers, but also in quality of visitor experience.

“A key factor in driving the change has been the partnerships developed with local authorities and other organisations such as National Trust, ensuring that investments in forests deliver against regional recreation and tourism priorities.

“This underpins my Department’s strategy to develop and improve the recreation and tourism potential of our forests.

“Recognising the valuable contribution that our forests make economically and environmentally as well as to the recreation and leisure sectors, I have recently secured £9 million of reserves for Forest Service. These reserves will ensure greater financial security and market resilience going forward.

“Our woodlands are hugely valuable, benefiting the local economy, communities, individuals and society as a whole by contributing to a healthy, quality environment.

“It is therefore extremely encouraging that so many of us value and enjoy this important natural resource.”