Approximately 45% of the national forest estate is privately owned. The majority of private forests are small forests; typically less than 9 hectares and the 12,000 farmers that planted have little or no experience in forest management.
Nearly two-thirds of the forest estate is 20 years old or less, this is due to the large-scale afforestation that took place in the last twenty years by private forest owners. The supply forecasts indicate that the production volumes from the private sector are expected to more than double within a decade. This offers farmers enormous opportunities if they can mobilise the farm forestry resource.
The fragmentation of the private forest resource and the lack of technical skills are a serious threat to the sustainable management of these forests. Associations or groups of forest owners are one way to coordinate forest owners, exchange information and increase efficiencies to improve forest management.
The development of forest owner organisations has already begun in Ireland; there are groups throughout the country at varying stages of development some groups are coordinating management operations or jointly marketing timber while others are focussed on getting to know each other and learning more about forest management through field days etc.
Typically, a forest owner group is started by a group of people who share a common vision. They will hold publicised meetings to solicit interest from other prospective members. The meetings initially are an opportunity to meet with other forest owner locally, to exchange ideas to determine the expectations of the group.
If you would like to learn more about Forest Owner Groups please contact either your local IFA Farm Forestry representation or head office on 01 4500266.