- The Department’s Forest Division July Report:
- 165 ha of new forests were established in July. The total afforestation programme so far in 2020 is 1,681 ha, this represents a decrease of 33% on the area planted by this date last year. As of July, €5,734,621 had been paid out under the Afforestation and Woodland Creation scheme.
- €53,947,283 paid in forest premiums.
- 60,645 linear metres of new forest road have been constructed year to date, this represents a 30% increase in linear metre constructed from this date last year. The total grant aid paid out under the Forest Road scheme is €2,450,463.
- 101 new felling licence issued in July, to thin 494 ha and clearfell 775 ha. The total licences issued so far in 2020 is 900 to thin 3,352 ha and clearfell 5,382. This is a 75% decrease on the number of licences that issued to date in 209.
Activity since last National Council
- A submission was made to the public consultation on the draft Agriculture Appeals (Amendment) Bill 2020 (see attached for copy of submission). In advance of submission an information note was circulated to forest owners to encourage them to participate in the consultation process.
- A meeting has been sought with Minister Hackett the three key issues are (i) forestry licence system including draft Agriculture Appeals (Amendment) Bill 2020, (ii) dissatisfaction at the Reconstitution & Underplanting Scheme (Ash Dieback)scheme and (iii) implementation of the Mackinnon report on Review of the Approval Process for Afforestation in Ireland.
- A marketing campaign involving contacting local TD’s on the issues with the forestry licence system (see attached document) has been initiated in response to the Project Plan for Processing of Forestry Licences published by the Department in July. The plan fails to deal with the substantive issues facing forest owners including the spiralling costs and the active discrimination of small farm forest owners. IFA’s proposals to address the crisis in the forestry licence system are:
- The system must ensure that no farmer has to wait longer than 4 months for a forestry licence as set out in the Forestry Act 2014 Section 18(1) for a decision on a licence, irrespective of the application size.
- A review the current AA screening process, associated rules and thresholds. In particular, the 15 km radius ‘likely zone of impact’ employed by DAFM for screening for forestry licences must be re-assessed and the radius employed tailored to the size and nature of the application.
- Introduce a cost-based planning support grant for forest owners to assist with increased costs and requirements associated with applying for a felling and afforestation licence, including the submission of a Natura Impact Statement, as reference in the Mackinnon report.
- Amend the Forestry Act 2014 to introduce new exemptions for activities, such as forest road construction and thinning operations, that do not present a significant landscape change and present a low risk from an environmental perspective.
- IFA attended two COFORD Wood Mobilisation and Roundwood Forecast Working Group online meeting.
- At the first meeting the WG prepared a document with a series of recommendations to ensure the prompt issuing of licences in the future, this was presented to COFORD Council for approval and subsequently to Minister Hackett.
- At the second meeting there was Roundwood Forecast update and a presentation on Forestry Licensing & Single Consent System. She advised that forestry licences outputs 2020 (to 28th August) were as follows:
- 1,027 tree felling licences; 10,168ha (2.763 million m3)
- 336 afforestation licences; 2,508ha
- 238 forest road licences; 89kms
- IFA inputted into the COFORD Promotion and Afforestation Working Group (PAW) forestry submission with regard to CAP post-2020. IFA proposals include:
- Forestry must be supported as key solution for sustainable land use within CAP.
- Forests need to retain their eligibility as crops for existing applicants under the current BPS and when determining applicant’s entitlements to the newly proposed Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) scheme. It is imperative that BPS/BISS eligibility continues beyond the term of forest premium payment.
- Address barriers to increase farmer uptake in afforestation including: positioning of the appropriate support schemes, increase grant and premium rates should apply for GPC1, increase certainty around level of annual premium receivable, issues regarding digitisation of forest area, reforestation supports commensurate with delivery of additional environmental benefits, and extension of the range of systems grant aided under the Agroforestry category.
- There was a meeting of the Farm Forestry Committee, issues discussed included: actions on ash dieback scheme, campaign on forestry licence systems, forestry section in Programme for Government – Our Shared Future and submission on CAP post 2020.
- IFA had a meeting with Malcom Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform to get update on the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan. The draft plan was published in 2018 and no final report was ever published.
- Full roll out of campaign to increase awareness of the issues in the forest licence system and put pressure on Minister Hackett in advance of meeting to adopt IFA’s proposals to ensure the prompt issuing of forestry licences.
- To develop ash dieback income compensation model based in the TB compensation arrangements and other Department schemes.