The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) issued 81 afforestation licences so far this year, according to the latest forestry dashboard.

The department estimates that it will issue 1,000 afforestation licences in 2024.

To date this year, there has been 71 valid afforestation applications. 20 were issued for the final week in February.

So far this year 667ha have been planted, according to the dashboard.

There has been just 91 applications for the Native Tree Scheme (NTAS) since the programme commenced in October 2023.

This year, there has been 60 licences issued under the scheme.

There has been 392 applications made since the opening of the Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme (RADS), with 187 made so far this year.

The Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) stated that this is the first time the number of afforestation licences issued in a week “meets the minimum number needed to reach the annual planting target”.

SEEFA stated that it welcomes the pace, but that the licences backlog “continues to be an issue”.

“Felling which has consistently been the least poorly performing department is now struggling to match even half of last year’s pace,” SEEFA stated.

This week there were 16 Coillte felling licenses issued, bringing the total number this year to 178.

There were 21 private licenses issued, bringing the total to 188 so far in 2024.

SEEFA stated: “The improvement in one department cannot come at the detriment of another. SEEFA hopes to see consistency in all areas to restore land owners’ faith in the sector.”

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett is currently establishing a Forestry Strategy Consultative Committee (FSCC).

The purpose of the FSCC is to act as a consultative group to make contributions to the development of the forest strategy in Ireland.

It will represent views and contributions from a broad selection of stakeholders, nominated by Minister Hackett.