Forestry bill: ‘Leitrim has suffered over afforestation due to poor planting policy’

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry has said that areas in counties such as Leitrim have “suffered over afforestation due to poor planting policy and dismissal of community concerns”.

This week, the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020, which aims to reform the way appeals lodged against forestry licences are processed, will be debated in the Dáil.

Speaking about the bill, the TD for Sligo-Leitrim says that while he “supports the right to object and indeed the need for it”, it is “in everyone’s interest we must have a short and defined time-frame for assessments to be made and decisions to be turned around so that communities and the timber industry can have certainty”.

‘Poor planting policy and dismissal of concerns’

“I visited Masonite in south Co. Leitrim where continuity of timber supply is crucial to the business,” the deputy said.

“If the new legislation is to be successful to assist companies like Masonite, who employ 140 people, pay annual wages in excess of €8 million and are very substantial rate payers at €500,000 per year, we must immediately increase resources in personnel to ensure both applicants and appeals alike are afforded due process as quickly as is necessary for all concerned.”

The deputy added that sawmills and other companies nationwide are “rightly concerned at disruption to supplies due to the delay in issuing of felling licenses”.

“It is simply crucial that the legislation being passed in the Oireachtas is immediately followed up with the provision of adequate resources; to ensure the efficient turnaround of forestry appeals for both planting and felling,” he continued.

Leitrim has suffered over afforestation in areas due to poor planting policy and dismissal of community concerns.

“New planting applications should be handled sensitively, listen to and accept local concerns but above all, other counties must play their part on forestry rather than an over concentration in some communities.”

Dáil must ‘act swiftly and decisively’

Meanwhile, independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan has confirmed that she has submitted a number of amendments to the bill, which is due to be debated in the Dáil this week.

Deputy Nolan says that the Dáil must “act swiftly and decisively” to ensure that the bill achieves its objective of addressing the ongoing crisis in the forestry licensing and appeals system.

The deputy has been in contact with local employers, such as Coolrain Sawmills and self-employed forestry sector workers, and says they “are all absolutely clear the current system is not fit for purpose and that the ability to operate and plan is being impeded”.