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Minister Pippa Hackett welcomes extension of state aid for National Forestry Programme

The Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Forestry, Senator Pippa Hackett has welcomed the news that the EU Commission has agreed to an extension of the state aid approval for the Ireland’s National Forestry Programme for 2021.

Acknowledging the importance of the extension, the Minister said, “This is good news which will provide assurance to those who wish to apply for grants under the current forestry programme.  The extension was necessary as there were delays in issuing new EU guidelines for state aid in the agriculture and forestry sector, but this gives legal certainty for the continuation of the programme.   I am pleased to have secured it in time for 2021  and I would like to thank the Commission for agreeing to my request for an extension.”

The Minister also spoke about the scope the extension provides her for delivering a new model for forestry. Commenting, she stated, “This extended period gives us a much needed opportunity to look afresh at forestry in Ireland. We know we need to build and improve on  the existing model to provide ecosystem services, income, jobs and recreational opportunities as well as contributing to our challenging environmental goals. I want to oversee the design of that model and am fully committed to the consultation with all stakeholders which will help inform a new Forest Strategy and deliver a sustainable forestry programme.”

She added, “From my first day in office, resolving forestry issues has been one of my top political priorities. Clearly we still have some way to go to meet the ambition we have set ourselves but I intend to build on the momentum we have created, so that we not only increase the number of licences issued to land and forest owners in the months ahead, but we also design a model of woodland creation which works for all.”

Providing updates on the current position on forestry planting and licencing, the Minister also said, “A well-functioning licensing system is the bedrock of any successful forestry programme and we are continuing to invest heavily in the licensing process so that we can deliver the service that stakeholders expect. I appreciate that the challenges to the existing system means that 2020 was a difficult year for many in the sector and I know we have some way to go with the current system but the trend is encouraging and has continued into the new year.  I believe that the recent improvements allied to the confirmed extension of our schemes for another year means that we can look forward to 2021 with more hope for forestry in Ireland. I will continue to engage intensively with all interested stakeholders on these issues.”

Notes for Editors:

The updates provided by the Minister on the current position on forestry planting and licencing are as follows:

  • On 1st October 2020, DAFM had 4,832 applications on hand for processing. 1,045 new licences have issued since then and we currently have 4,453 licences on hand for processing when new applications received since are included. A breakdown of these figures is below.
  • The total number of licences issued in 2020 was 2,593.  1,045 new licences have issued since 1st October reflecting the improvement in licencing output in Q4 of 2020. This positive trend has continued into January with 177 new licences issued in the first two weeks;
  • On felling:
    • The volume licenced in 2020 was just over 5 million m3. This is down from the  6.5 million m3  licensed in 2019.
    • 40% of this output or 2 million m3 was licenced between October and December. This rate of progress has continued into January with 444,000m3 licenced in the first two weeks of the new year.
    • 2,760 felling applications  are on hand at present. This is down from 3,230 applications on hand at 1st October last; 
    • Since 1st October, 29 felling licence decisions have been appealed for 474ha/124,803m3
  • On afforestation,
    • Licences to provide for 4,300ha of new afforestation issued in 2020 which is the same figure as 2019. 2,433 new ha’s were planted in 2020.
    • There were 960 afforestation licence applications on hand on 1st October, 2020; 1,009 afforestation licences are on hand at present. 172 sites have been licensed since 1st October at 1,639 hectares
    • Afforestation licences have a three-year validity and a total of 4,900ha remains licenced and available for planting with a valid afforestation licence and not subject to appeal. The Minister encouraged any landowner with a valid afforestation licence to strongly consider using it given the strong economic and environmental benefits to using some of their land for tree-planting;
    • Broadleaf trees made up 34% of all new planting In 2020. This is an increase from 21% just 3 years ago and means that the 30% broadleaf planting target set out in the Forestry Programme has been exceeded for the first time since the start of the Programme;.
    • Since 1st October, 23 afforestation licences were appealed totalling 306ha.
  • On Forest roads
    • 129km of forest roads were licensed in 2020. This compares to 195km in 2019 and both are above the target in the Climate Action Plan of 125km per year
    • Since 1st October, 10 roads licences were appealed amounting to 5.2km
    • There were 642 forest road applications on hand at 1st October, 2020; 684 road licences are on hand at present