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2021 will see the ‘highest volume’ of timber licenced for harvest

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Update on the implementation of Project Woodland comes as foresters demand Taoiseach intervene in crisis around licensing delays

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Horticulture

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4 November 2021 | 0

The second interim report on the implementation of Project Woodland has indicated that 2021 will see the highest volume of timber licenced for harvest.

This is according to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, Pippa Hackett who has received the report.

The Minister noted that significant progress had been made since the last interim report was published in July. Since the end of August, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has issued an average of 118 new licenses each week since end-August.

Minister Hackett welcomed this news but added: “I am equally aware though that the progress is not equal and that an urgent uplift in afforestation licensing is needed. My department will soon be producing its projections for licensing for the first half of 2022.”

Project Woodland was established to reform the regulation and vision for forestry in Ireland.

The update came on the same day that a protest from representatives from the private Irish forestry sector took place. Representatives from over 100 forestry businesses protested outside Dáil Éireann on Wednesday to highlight government licensing delays that have prevented the harvesting or planting trees and have put 12,000 jobs at risk.

Irish law requires foresters to have licences to plant or fell trees, or to build roads to transport logs. However, Department of Agriculture officials have struggled to keep pace with permit applications, leading to a signifiant backlog.

A representative from the Social, Economic, Environmental, Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA), which organised the protest, said the licensing backlog has hit 5,500 applications, with some businesses waiting two years for permits to plant or fell trees.

It has been confirmed that that the DAFM is proceeding with a full regulatory review of forestry licencing to be conducted by external consultants, Philip Lee. The review is expected to be submitted in February 2022.

The Project Woodland report also noted progress on both the proposals on pre-application discussion and the planning grant. The work on the next Vision and Strategy for Irish forestry was also reported to be making good progress with a national attitudinal survey on forestry abut to commence and the community-based outreach through National Rural Network already underway.

“I am happy to see solid progress being made because it is essential, if we are to reform the design and delivery of woodland creation in Ireland, that Project Woodland succeeds,” said Minister Hackett. “The importance of us planting more trees and forests has been brought into sharp focus this week with the ongoing of COP26 negotiations and the upcoming delivery of the Climate Action Plan. It is simply the case that woodland creation must be central to our land-based climate and biodiversity solutions.

The Minister added: This is not easy work but we are making real progress and will continue to do so. It’s important that the Interim Report formally acknowledges this as it has done and also highlights the priorities for future work. It is only through this collaborative approach from all concerned will we reform this area and make woodland creation the priority policy and driver of our future environmental and economic needs.”

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