The forestry approvals process in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is to be subject to an external review, according to Andrew Doyle, the Minister of State with responsibility for forestry.

The minister made the announcement at a meeting of the Forestry Programme Implementation Group, which was held yesterday, Tuesday, July 23, in Dublin.

Chairing the meeting, Minister Doyle said that he had commissioned Jim Mackinnon, formerly the chief planner with the Scottish Government, to analyse the department’s current process for approving forestry applications.

The review is set to be completed by the end of 2019, with Minister Doyle saying that there would be an opportunity for all stakeholders to contribute to the review when it begins.

“I have seen a similar analysis carried out by Mr. Mackinnon for the Scottish Government on the approval process in Scotland, the results of which appeared to assist in terms of increased afforestation levels,” Minister Doyle explained.

He added: “I believe that it will be useful for an external party to conduct this review so that we can ensure our process is efficient and effective, and continues to meet the expectations of all stakeholders.”

Yesterday’s meeting of the implementation group – which was established to monitor the National Forestry Programme – also heard a presentation regarding the Government’s Climate Action Plan, particularly the actions related to forestry.

Minister Doyle said that he welcomed the group’s support for achieving these objectives under the plan.

The group was also updated on two forestry schemes: The Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) initiative; and the Forestry Knowledge Transfer Group (KTG) Scheme.

According to the minister, the CCF initiative was now “fully subscribed” with 30 applications received across 12 counties, with the KTG Scheme also proving popular, with 40 such ‘KT’ groups formed this year, compared to 33 in 2018.

Commenting on these schemes, Minister Doyle said: “I am delighted with the update on both of these schemes. We continually seek to support our forest owners to enable them to manage their forests, both from an environmental point of view and also to maximise the return on their investments.”

The minister also pointed out the increased uptake of the Forest Road Scheme, which will allow forest owners to earn money from thinning their crop, he explained.