In January, a total of 324 forest licences were issued compared with 263 licences in December. Of the 324 licences, 145 were issued to the private sector and 179 were issued to Coillte. The breakdown of the licences that were issued to the private sector is as follows: 37 afforestation licences, 35 forest road licence and 73 felling licences. Despite the improvement only 50% of the monthly target for private sector felling licences that required ecological input was achieved. The following information is from DAFM dashboard:
There are currently 1,890 forestry licences referred to the DAFM Ecology team (most files referred to Ecology will likely require an Appropriate Assessment). Of these, 1,123 are for tree felling licences from private forest owners. Since July 2020, DAFM has received NIS from 120 individuals, of which, 80 have been processed by the ecologists and 39 which are being processed. The following table shows a county breakdown of the 1,123 tree felling licences awaiting assessment by an ecologist.
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Activity since last National Council
The Project Woodland report by Jo O’Hara was launched by Minister Hackett to tackle issues in forestry. The implementation of the Mackinnon report provides advice on improving the delivery in the forest licence process. It proposes the following governance structure:
The Project Board is composed of Brendan Gleeson, DAFM, Jerry Grant, Chartered Engineer (former CEO Irish Water), Sarah O’ Shea, Solicitor and Jo O’Hara (former CEO of the Scottish Forestry Commission). Colm Hayes, DAFM has been appointed as Project Manager. The implementation of the recommendations in the report have been divided into four workstreams: No backlog, Shared approach, Organisational development and Effective processes. Some of the deliverables include improved reporting with targets, Customer Charter, pre-application discussions, private sector backlog to be reduced by 50% (numbers), review of DAFM structures as well as review of Teagasc, COFORD and Coillte. Other actions that are less ambitious suggest piloted land availability studies including looking at unenclosed land, a rapid feasibility study to look at single consent system, pilot environmental grant for environmental report and review forestry legislation. IFA has a number of concerns (i) the lack of timelines for delivery of actions and (ii) internal appointment of Project Manager due to the fact that the report that senior management are already spread wide.
IFA & Forest Industries Ireland FII issued a joint press release calling on Minister Pippa Hackett for action to tackle forestry licences, proposed actions include: restore confidence, introduction of cost-based planning grant, appointment of full-time project manager, review Forestry Act, a more farmer friendly afforestation scheme and open up land for forestry including unenclosed land.
- Teagasc launched the new Forest Carbon Tool, the online tool is a user-friendly way for existing and potential forest owners to calculate how much carbon can be removed in woodlands and highlights the important role of harvested wood products.
- IFA in partnership with industry wrote to the Ministers to outline farmers views regarding the Department’s intention to publish personal information of forestry licence applicants in Phase 2 of the Forestry Licence Viewer. It was proposed that the agents name would suffice and that personal data (name/address) of applicants would not be made available online.
- IFA wrote to the DAFM requesting the introduction of the Reconstitution of Woodland Scheme (Frost) for forest owners impacted by the late frost and significant damage to plantations, even well-established trees.
- IFA welcomed the establishment Irish Forestry Owners (IFO), which is composed of nine forest owner groups. A number of members of the IFO are members or former members of IFA Farm Forestry committee. IFA works with all producer organisations to support farmers to mobilise and optimise returns from harvesting operations.
- IFA Farm Forestry committee met on 17th February to discuss forestry licences, ash dieback, review of ESB/IFA loss of tree planting rights agreement, etc.
- IFA issued press release in response to the EU approval of an extension of the forestry programme for 2021.
- IFA attended a number of COFORD meetings including Council, Wood Mobilisation WG and Forest Ecosystem Services.
- IFA participated in an Enterprise Ireland stakeholder consultation with consultants on: Industry Led Knowledge, Development and Research Facility for the Timber Sector in Ireland.
Any EU/COPA developments
- There is a public consultation on the new EU Forest Strategy, which is open until 19th April 2021.
- Continuation of IFA’s forestry licence campaign to address backlog.
- To work closely with Department and all stakeholders to see that the actions and recommendations set out in Project Woodland are implemented as soon as possible.
- To raise awareness of forest owners’ concerns in relation to risks posed by forest pest and disease particularly with regards to the importation of timber and plants.