FCI calls for ‘significant number’ of tree felling licences

The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors of Ireland (FCI) is calling for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to issue “a significant number of tree felling licences”, as well as afforestation and forest road building licences.

The FCI is saying that this must be done to “offset a national disaster with the forestry harvesting contracting sector”.

The FCI says it has “huge concerns” among its forestry contracting members, caused by what it calls “the unnecessary and prolonged delays in the issuing of tree felling licences”.

These delays, often caused by unwarranted and unsustainable third party objections, are forcing our many forestry harvesting contractors out of work from January 2020.

“They will be forced to cease their forestry harvesting contracting operations and to make their highly trained teams of skilled operators redundant,” warned Michael Moroney, FCI chief executive.

The FCI is warning Minister of State for Forestry Andrew Doyle that a lack of licences will result in, among other things, a loss of income; a loss of machine skill talent; and the bankruptcy of experienced operators.

The group also warns of a loss of expensive machines; a reduction in forestry planting; and a loss of national opportunities for carbon sequestration.

The association has also expressed its “disappointment” that the role of forestry contractor was not mentioned in the recent ‘Review of Approval Processes for Afforestation in Ireland’ report.

The FCI points out that, according to its own research, the forestry contracting sector employs in the region of 1,000 skilled operators.

“In Ireland, forestry policy and the administration of the various schemes is the responsibility of the Forest Section of the department,” the FCI said in a statement.

The association is calling for fees to be introduced “as a matter of urgency” for making submissions and lodging appeals on forestry licences, arguing that the third party appeals process is largely responsible for the delays.

In the house planning process in Ireland there are fees for making a submission on a planning application and lodging an appeal. It is unprecedented that similar actions on licensing, felling and road access applications do not attract a fee.

“At FCI, we are urging the Minister for Forestry to ensure that a minimum fee of €50/objection be put in place with immediate effect, for a period of five years, when subject to review, for all valid objections, third party or otherwise, to the issue of licences for afforestation, forest road construction and tree felling,” said Moroney.

The FCI highlights that some €345 million in investment for machinery has been made by forestry machinery contractors.

“Irish forest machinery contractors are now the most vulnerable group in the forestry environment as a consequence of the licences delays. These machines have been privately funded by forest contractors, with significant monthly repayment needed,” the FCI statement concluded.