The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) is “committed” to publishing a composite map which will highlight exactly where there are constraints on new forestry planting and where there are none.

According to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his department has already produced “environmental considerations map layers” which help registered foresters identify opportunities for further planning.

These maps, which are available online, also identify where new forest planting can be rolled out even in environmentally sensitive areas such as a breeding wader hot-spot’ or a ‘high nature value farmland’ area.

Forestry Programme

But the Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture, Claire Kerrane, has called on Minister Charlie McConalogue to publish a composite map without delay to show which parts of the country are no longer eligible for planting under the rules of the new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme.

According to Deputy Kerrane, concerns have been expressed that “significant portions of land are now ruled out” for forestry, because of the eligibility criteria set out in the programme.

She believes it is important that there is visibility on which land is available for planting.

“As it stands, we can see a range of layers which demonstrate the different aspects that must be considered for eligibility for afforestation, but not the whole picture.

“I queried this with the minister and was advised in a recent reply to a parliamentary question that his department do intend to publish a composite map, but it is not available yet.

“I believe it is important that this map is made available as soon as possible,” Deputy Kerrane added.

Composite map

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture said she had spoken to farmers and forestry owners who have raised concerns with her that they could “waste money” on surveys of their land in preparation for a potential forestry project, which might then turn out to be “ineligible”.

“I would ask the minister to make a composite map available as soon as possible, to really make clear what areas can and cannot be planted.

“Doing so would provide a more comprehensive picture on the current situation and show where adjustments might be made, to ensure we are making the new Forestry Programme as accessible and attractive as possible,” Deputy Kerrane added.