Concerns over ‘undue haste’ with which forestry bill is being ‘rushed’ through Oireachtas

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has said it is “extremely concerned about the undue haste” with which the new forestry legislation is being “rushed through the Oireachtas”.

This week, the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020, which aims to reform the way appeals lodged against forestry licences are processed, will be debated in the Dáil.

The IWT says it is calling on the government to “suspend this legislation”.

The IWT’s statement continues:

“This legislation proposes to introduce fees for objectors for the first time and was part of a broader set of recommendations to reform Ireland’s failed forestry model.

Yet, this one aspect of the review has been singled out for urgent action ahead of root and branch reform which would address legitimate concerns that forestry is not compliant with environmental law.

“The IWT is calling on the government to suspend this legislation and to prioritise a new forestry programme that addresses the biodiversity and climate emergency.”

Meanwhile, environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment has said that the forestry bill “leaves out social factors”.

The group has written to Minister of State Pippa Hackett about the introduction of a fee for observations or appeals against forestry licencing decisions. It also wrote to Minister Hackett about this in July and claims that it received no reply on the matter.

In its most recent letter to Minister Hackett about the forestry bill, the group wrote:

“We now draw your attention to the definition of ‘sustainable’ in Section 14D(2) to which the minister ‘shall have regard’ in making policy directives.

“This requires the minister in issuing a policy directive to have regard only to economic and environmental factors to ensure ‘sustainable yields’.

“The UN definition of sustainable development requires that environmental, societal and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of an improved quality of life. These four dimensions to sustainable development ‘are intertwined, not separate’.

The failure to ensure that a minister be required when issuing a general directive as to policy to take into account the communities most affected by industrial conifer afforestation is to eliminate the most important stakeholders.

“There is widespread social discontent with the current afforestation policy because of its impact on rural communities and their way of life.

“The legislation must ensure that the UN’s definition of sustainable development is fully incorporated and that social and cultural values are properly considered in future land use decisions.”