Figures from the Forestry Licencing Dashboard show that, in each of the twelve months from April 2021 to March 2022 inclusive (except for one), the target for private forestry licence approvals with ecology input was not met.

These figures do not include Coillte licences. Many licences must include input from ecologists – something which politicians have previously cited as a reason for the delay in issuing licences.

In each of the 12 months between and including April 2021 and March 2022, the targeted figure for licences issued was approximately 220.

However, in only one of those months – September – was this figure surpassed (the number of licences issued in that month was 231).

In only two other months did the number of licences issued surpass 200 – in June of 2021 (212) and January of 2022 (207).

On the flip side, two months saw licence approvals of less than 100: August saw 34 licences approved and July, only 12.

All other months saw the issued licence figure range from 112 to 170.

Responding to these figures, independent TD Carol Nolan also pointed out that number of afforestation licences issued in the first week of May was nine – a figure she remarked was “woefully underwhelming”.

“Nine licences for the entire state. Meanwhile, approvals for Coillte continue to exceed this in almost all categories such as private felling, roads and afforestation,” she said.

Nolan welcomed comments from Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil yesterday (Tuesday, May 17) in which he acknowledged that the licence approval figures are below where they should be.

“However, what would be more welcome, particularly for the private forestry sector, would be the implementation of measures that finally and dramatically increase licencing levels,” Nolan argued, commenting after an exchange in the Dáil between herself and the Taoiseach.

She also cited the issues arising from ash dieback.

Nolan claimed that the 2020 Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme for ash plantations infected with the disease is “inadequate”.

She said that, according to the Social, Economic and Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA), there are almost 400 applications in the queue for the scheme, but there have been no approvals issued in the last five weeks.

The TD also criticised the handling of the forestry issue by Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett.

“Minister Hackett’s handling of this crisis has in itself become a crisis. It is impacting a significant number of areas including the availability of timber for new home construction.

“We need real leadership on this matter, and we need a totally reformed licencing system which is capable of responding quickly, flexibly and effectively to a sector that is crying out for stability and certainty,” Nolan concluded.