While it is unlikely that targets for the amount of land planted will be met this year, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), is set to meet afforestation licence approval goals, Minister of State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett has said.

Speaking on the latest episode of Farmland, the Green Party minister said that despite backlogs in the licence approval system resulting from a court action in 2019, she is hopeful that certain targets will be met.

She said:

“We did increase our licences output last year by about 56% and we have made commitments as a department to double afforestation licences for this year and we’re on track to do those things.”

The minister said that following this court action, the DAFM began to redesign the licensing system to alleviate the issue, through measures including increasing the number of ecologists working in the system.

“We’re still fixing problems that have arisen in the past and we’re working really hard to do that,” she added.

Minister Hackett’s interview and discussion on forestry licensing and targets can be viewed at the video below.

Her comments come as recent figures from the Forestry Licensing Dashboard showed that in 11 out of 12 months between April 2021 and March 2022, the target for private forestry licences was missed.

Responding to the shortfall on these targets, Minister Hackett said that her department works “on an overall annual target”, within which “there are ebbs and flows in how licences are issued”.

However, she stated that she is aware that forestry targets must be met so that Ireland can, not only deliver for landowners and famers, but also for afforestation in terms of climate action.

Later in the programme, the minister added that getting the forestry and afforestation licensing system back on track is a personal goal of hers for her tenure in government.

“I would love to get that back on a track that it can deliver because the targets there are really substantial.

“We are a long way off our annual committed [afforestation] targets, even this year we will be again probably, so it’s about getting that on the right track and delivering again,” she concluded.