Only 1,591 ha of new trees have been planted so far this year

Only 1,591 ha of new trees have been planted so far this year, with a sizeable 3,300 forest licenses still in arrears in the Department of Agriculture’s embattled forest service.

New data extracted from this publication shows that in addition to 530 planting files and 250 logging road permits, there are still 2,520 felling files awaiting processing.

It follows the release of a major new report on the economics of afforestation and management in Ireland, compiled by the University of Galway, which found that if the country had met its planting targets in recent years, it would have ‘a carbon neutral expansion would have made possible for the dairy industry”.

It also comes ahead of the launch of a new forest program for the period 2023-2027 with expected changes to the duration of premium payments and the levels of grant and premium payments to incentivize farmers to get back into the sector.

While the government program and climate protection plan include a target of 8,000 ha per year for afforestation, the ministry has confirmed that only 1,591 ha of new trees had been planted by mid-August.

In a statement, a ministry spokesman said: “A total of 2,994 licenses have been issued as of August 12, including 982 private fellings, 1,124 Coillte fellings, 499 roads and 389 afforestations.

“These licenses allow for 2,633 ha of afforestation, 207 km of roads and over 30,546 ha of logging. In the same period, the department received 2,322 applications. 1,591 ha have been planted so far.

“Approximately 3,300 license files need to be processed, including 530 afforestations, 2520 logging operations (coillte and private) and 250 forest roads.”

The ministry said several outside ecologists have been recruited to focus “exclusively” on afforestation to further increase production and meet the afforestation license target.

It added that “improved results” are expected in the third quarter of this year, with Project Woodland’s results “contributing to a better-performing licensing system.”

It continued, “As part of Project Woodland, a legislative review of the existing legal framework for licensing forestry activities has been completed by Philip Lee Consultants.

“The report outlines changes in environmental law that have led to an increasingly complex regulatory framework that has ultimately led to delays in forest licensing in recent years.

“There are also recommendations that the Department must now fully consider as we continue to reduce the backlog of forest license applications.

“The DAFM is preparing an action plan to implement the recommendations, with some of the recommendations already in place.” Only 1,591 ha of new trees have been planted so far this year

Fry Electronics Team

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