Newly adopted measures to ‘create conditions for more forests to be planted’
Newly adopted measures by the Government will “create the conditions for more forests to be planted”, according to the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Forestry, Andrew Doyle.
The minister was speaking as he welcomed today’s decision by Government to adopt the proposals arising from the Midterm Review of the current Forestry Programme.
The review was prepared by the Department of Agriculture to examine the implementation of the Government’s Forestry Programme 2014-2020.
Commenting on the matter, Minister Doyle said: “I very much welcome the adoption by Government today of this review. It recognises clearly the contribution which forestry continues to make to the economy, environment and society in Ireland.
“The review is an extremely comprehensive exercise, informed by detailed stakeholder consultations.
The changes recommended by the conclusions of the Midterm Review are primarily aimed at enhancing the environmental benefits of forestry while at the same time addressing the shortfall in key target areas.
“These measures address some of the key issues arising from our review of the programme to date and range from improved rates for planting to measures to assist with mobilisation of the significant timer resource from private forest – which will become available in next few years,” he said.
According to the department, the proposals were the outcome of a public call for submissions as well as a series of consultation meetings with stakeholders and the European Commission.
The proposals were also subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment screening exercise, which was recently concluded, the department added.
Welcoming the improved rates for planting broadleaves, Minister Doyle continued: “These significant increases will promote greater species and habitat diversity and will help the department to deliver on our commitment to achieve an annual broadleaf planting target of 30%.
“I would also highlight a new second thinning grant for broadleaf forests and drew attention to a new continuous cover forestry initiative, which will also contribute to creating richer and more varied habitats – by encouraging existing forest owners to develop uneven aged forests.”
The department explained that the most significant improvements in grant and premium rates are aimed at those planting categories that may prove most attractive to farmers – such as Agro-forestry and Forestry for Fibre.
Agro-forestry will allow farmers to plant trees while continuing to graze their animals on the same land – with this land use system suitable for producing woodfuel or, where appropriate, high quality hardwood timber, the department outlined.
Meanwhile, the aim of the Forestry for Fibre scheme is also to facilitate production of renewable energy for either domestic or local commercial use.
While more traditional forestry has a rotation of approximately 35 to 40 years, the species planted under the Forestry for Fibre scheme have a rotation of up to 15 years.
This equates to the number of annual premium payments for Forestry for Fibre – which means that a payment of €510/ha is payable each year up to the time the plantation is felled, according to the department.
‘Even more attractive’
The higher premium rates introduced will make it “even more attractive” for farmers to plant trees, the minister added.
“Farm forestry presents a real opportunity for landowners to increase their income while continuing to farm.
Planting part of a farm, perhaps the more remote or more difficult land, with trees can introduce a new source of income while allowing landowners to maintain their existing output.
Minister Doyle also confirmed that a stakeholder group will be set up to assist in monitoring the implementation of the Governments’ Forestry Programme to 2020.
The group is set to be chaired by the minister and will include representatives of the forestry sector, environmental NGOs and other relevant bodies.
In conclusion, the minister said: “Forestry combines the best climate mitigation land use that we have, as well as a viable and sustainable land use income for farmers.
“This is why the Ireland 2040 Development Plan has a specific commitment to having a publicly-funded afforestation programme beyond 2020.
Priority now is to ensure that the targets to 2020 are delivered. The new measures and increased rates introduced following the Midterm Review will, I believe, create the conditions for more forests to be planted.
“I would encourage all landowners to examine the schemes and new rates and seriously consider afforestation now.”