Forest owner groups join forces to form national body

Nine of Ireland’s forest owner groups have come together to form a national body, the Irish Forest Owners (IFO).

The groups currently involved are: Donegal Woodland Owners Society; Irish Wood Producers; Inishowen Forest Owners; Laois Farm Forestry Group; North East Forestry Group; Offaly Farm Forestry Group; Waterford Forest Owner Group; Westmeath Farm Forestry Group; and Wicklow Private Woodland Owners.

Chairman of the IFO, Nicholas Sweetman from Co. Wexford, said: “The IFO is a body formed to support the forestry industry by supporting individual primary producer groups.

We formed this group to ensure the voice of all forest owners is heard in planning for the future of Ireland’s forests.

Chairperson of IFO Nicholas Sweetman

“Our members are the custodians of Ireland’s forests and we want to work with all stakeholders to create a forestry industry that generates a long-term income for private woodland owners, while creating a valuable and sustainable resource for future generations.”

Representing forestry growers

According to the IFO, there are over 390,000ha of private forestry, comprising 49% of the national forest estate.

Over 25,000 private growers have planted 268,000ha of grant-aided forestry between 1980 and 2019. More than 140,000ha of this is ready for various stages of harvesting from first thinning to clearfell.

“It is of great importance that the growers and not third parties are the ones to primarily benefit from the harvesting of this timber and also obtain reward on their stock of forestry carbon credits,” said Sweetman.

The development of private forestry producer groups is essential if owners are to keep control of their forestry business and optimise economic return, and for the growth of a sustainable forestry industry in Ireland.

“The IFO will promote and facilitate a greater involvement of forest owners in their sector through a well-developed producer group structure,” he said.

Immediate key issues for the IFO are “resolving the ongoing forest licensing crisis” and “actioning a clear plan for the swift implementation of a more meaningful ash dieback support plan” and it will shortly start a programme of engagement with key stakeholders.