IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally said improvements to the appropriate assessment procedures, and the removal of the need to submit a Natura Impact Statement in order for a felling and road application to be prioritised, were positive developments.
However, he said farmers need clarity on when the backlog will be cleared.
“We need to see new targets and increased output of licences associated with these improvements. Farmers have heard similar promises from the Department in the recent past, but the increased output never materialised.”
The Department issued a circular to the industry notifying them of changes to private tree felling licence (TFL) applications following an internal review of the system and appropriate assessment procedures.
Vincent Nally said that he very much hoped the changes would improve efficiency and get licences out quicker in the short term, until the recommendations from Project Woodland were forthcoming.
“These changes are very much tinkering around the edges of a system that does not work for farmers. We are waiting on Project Woodland, which will hopefully lead to a complete overhaul of the forest licencing system, to deliver a new and improved system that will support farmers to plant more trees on farms,” said Mr. Nally.
“Each of these licences represents a forest owner who wants to manage their forest. Every additional week limits their management options and potentially reduces the value of their timber crop.”
He stressed that a Natura Impact Statement may still be requested by the Department and under these circumstances it was vital that an environmental planning grant was introduced to support farmers with the cost.
There are approx. 6,000 forest licences in the system, of which 1,860 which are privately held, and are for afforestation. Road and felling are with the ecology section.
The Department’s target is to issue 4,500 new licences in 2021, or 375 licences per month. To date approx. 1,500 have issued, with nearly 300 licences issuing in May.