IT would have changed the face of forestry in Ireland. However, it turned out to be nothing other than a hoax that fooled both the industry and national press. 

This week, the Irish Times, one of the country's largest newspapers, published a piece exclusively revealing that Coillte, Ireland's semi-state forestry agency, had committed to only planting native species from 2025. 

While the organisation - which manages more than 400,000 hectares of Irish woodland - has pledged half of the 100,000 ha of new forests it creates by 2050 will be native, this marked a significant shift in forestry policy. 

Unsurprisingly, the news was widely shared, with many foresters perplexed at the decision, while others hailed Coillte for taking the action. But within hours, it appeared all was not right. 

Several well-placed Irish journalists – including John Gibbons – reported it was untrue, instead the result of a hoax press release. The Irish Times hastily took the story down from its website and, by Monday afternoon, a clarification had been published, detailing the inaccuracy of the story. 

Forestry Journal has not been able to independently verify the hoax press release, but it has been widely shared on social media.

It read: "As the world celebrates St Patrick's Day, Coillte is announcing its latest effort to become greener, as it pledges to only plant native species in Ireland from 2025." 

Coillte has confirmed separately to FJ the inaccuracy of the original story. 

A correction from the Irish Times read: "An article published in the Business section of, headlined: 'Coillte commits to planting native tree species only from 2025 on', attributes an incorrect policy to Coillte and was published in error.

"The State forestry company has not committed to planting only native tree species. The article also attributes incorrect quotations to a Coillte executive.

"In a statement to The Irish Times, Coillte says the correct position is that it hopes to 'enable the creation of 100,000 hectares of new forests by 2050, half of which will be native woodlands'.

"It aims to 'balance and deliver multiple benefits from its forests for climate, nature, wood and people, and bring more focus to climate action setting ambitious new targets on biodiversity and recreation, while continuing to deliver for the forest and wood products industry'."

Tensions over non-native species – especially Sitka spruce – are nothing new in Ireland. Just last year, a group of climate activists tore up recently planted saplings at a Coillte site