Andrew Doyle T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for forestry, has announced his intention to commission an external review of his Department’s forestry approvals process. The Minister of State made the announcement at a meeting of the Forestry Programme Implementation Group held yesterday in Dublin. The Implementation Group was established by Minister of State Doyle in May 2018 to monitor the implementation of the National Forestry Programme and its group comprises the forestry sector, state organisations and the Environmental Pillar.
The Group’s meeting was chaired by Minister Doyle at which he confirmed that he has commissioned Mr. Jim Mackinnon CBE, former Chief Planner with the Scottish Government, to analyse the process undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the approval of forestry planting applications. It is expected that the review would be completed by end-2019 and there will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to input to the review when it gets underway. Referring to the commissioning of the review, Minister of State Doyle commented that “I have seen a similar analysis carried out by Mr. Mackinnon for the Scottish Government on the approval process in Scotland, the results of which appeared to assist in terms of increased afforestation levels. I believe that it will be useful for an external party to conduct this review so that we can ensure our process is efficient and effective and continues to meet the expectations of all stakeholders”.
A presentation on the Government’s Climate Action Plan, published last month, was also given to the Group, with particular reference to the 22 specific actions related to forestry. The recognition of the key role of forestry in terms of carbon sequestration and storage was noted, with the Minister of State welcoming the support of the Group for the achievement of the objectives.
The Group also received updates on the implementation of the Forestry Programme. In particular it noted the uptake of the Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) initiative launched in January 2019, and the interest in the Forestry Knowledge Transfer Group Scheme which closed for applications in June 2019. The CCF initiative, which had been made available on a pilot basis, was fully subscribed with 30 applications received located across 12 countries. The Forestry KTG Scheme also proved popular with the formation of 40 groups approved, an increase on the 33 such Groups funded under the comparable scheme in 2018.
Welcoming the interest in both initiatives, the Minister of State added “I am delighted with the update on both of these schemes. We continually seek to support our forest owners to enable them to manage their forests, both from an environmental point of view and also to maximise the return on their investments. I have also noted a significant increase in uptake of the Forest Road Scheme, which indicates that those forest owners will soon be earning cash from the thinning of their crop. This underlines the way in which returns from forestry can complement other farm enterprises and that farm forestry merits serious consideration.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
A Forestry Programme Implementation Group was established in May 2018. This group, which represents the forestry sector, state organisations and the Environmental Pillar. It, was set up, following the Mid Term Review of the current Forestry Programme (2014-2020) to monitor the implementation of the Programme. The purpose of the group is to:
- Monitor the progress on implementation of the various measures and schemes under the programme;
- Identify issues in relation to delivery of targets and discuss how these issues can be resolved;
- Provide a forum for direct engagement between all of the various stakeholders.
Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) is an alternative forest management approach where the forest canopy is maintained at one or more levels without clearfelling. The distinctive element of CCF is the avoidance of clearfelling areas greater than 0.25 ha or more than two tree heights wide without the retention of some mature trees. These systems are generally associated with natural regeneration but natural regeneration can be supplemented by planting if required.
The objectives of the scheme are:
- To enhance environmental benefits of existing coniferous forests by opening up the canopy and creating new habitats for wildlife;
- To create an uneven canopy structure with the aim of producing high quality, high value logs.
- To promote a more suitable management option in sensitive sites; and
- To develop skills in continuous cover forestry across the forestry sector to facilitate adoption.
These objectives will be achieved through improvement felling of poorer quality trees; felling of additional trees to release potential frame trees; pruning to improve stem quality; thinning or re-spacing to promote growth and management and re-spacing of natural regeneration.