Up to 300 forest owners are set to take part in a pilot forestry Knowledge Transfer Group (KTG) scheme, which was launched recently.

The pilot scheme was launched by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, Andrew Doyle, at the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners’ AGM.

Three existing forestry groups are set to take part in the pilot, across counties Limerick, Tipperary, Clare and Donegal, and there will be multiple KTGs within each group.

While there are a number of support schemes available from the Department, such as the Forest Roads Scheme, Minister Doyle is also seeking to assist forest owners with the development of a forestry KTG.

“By removing the knowledge gap that exists amongst some forest owners, the Department hopes to assist forest owners to become forest ‘managers’.

Forests managed pro-actively by their owners will, I believe, result in more productive and more sustainable forests.

The pilot project aims to test the feasibility of a KTG scheme for the forestry sector.

It is hoped the forestry KTG scheme, which will be modelled closely on the Department’s existing KTGs for beef, sheep and other sectors of agriculture, will focus on the mobilisation of timber and biomass.

The aim of the KTG scheme is to increase the level of forest management activity amongst participating forest owners, and to increase awareness amongst participants of the value of their forest and, in particular, the potential value of biomass.

The Department had done extensive research on the feasibility of KTGs for forestry during 2015, Minister Doyle said.

But it was a result of a meeting between the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners group and the Department, back in June last year, that the idea of a KTG for forestry started to take shape, he added.

Ireland’s land area currently has a forest cover of 10.5%, compared to the EU average of 34%, Minister Doyle said.

Forest owners and the Department are working together to expand this forest area in a sustainable way, so that the many benefits that it brings can be realised to the full extent possible, he added.