Forestry bill won’t be panacea according to independent TD

The introduction of the “much-talked about” forestry bill alone will not solve the current logjam of applications facing the forestry sector, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

With the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 making its way through the Dáil this week, Fitzmaurice said the bill won’t solve immediate problems facing the sector on its own.

He said: “The bill, which I support, will be discussed in the Dáil today [Tuesday, September 29]. It appears as if some people think that this bill will solve everything, but it won’t.

“As it stands, there are up on 2,000 applications waiting to be processed by the Forestry Service.

While the bill will make changes which will impact how new applications are dealt with, other work will have to be carried out to clear the current backlog.

“Unless changes are made to the current procedures and protocols that are followed when dealing with applications, the sector will continue to be suffocated by red tape,” he said.

Continuing, the representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency said: “At the end of the day, Ireland signed up to the Habitats Directive without giving enough consideration for the impact that it would have.

“For instance, despite it not being enshrined in law, every planner adheres to the 15km buffer zone rule.

Ireland has walked itself into a cul-de-sac by brining in the likes of the Habitats Directive, which is destroying this country bit-by-bit.

“It is negatively impacting the development of housing, ports, airports as well as the forestry sector. It is the bane of peoples’ lives,” he added.

Concluding, Fitzmaurice said: “To further explain what needs to be done to help the forestry sector people need to understand that the personnel who used to sign off on applications are now deemed to be unsuitably qualified for the role.

“The minister and his department need to ensure that adequately qualified people are hired who can screen applications in or out, in order to speed up the process.

If we continue to bury our heads in the sand and proceed with the same procedures, then the current logjam will continue.

“It is imperative that timber is got to the mills as soon as possible, otherwise jobs will be lost,” Fitzmaurice said.

Meanwhile, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has said it is “extremely concerned about the undue haste” with which the new forestry legislation is being “rushed through the Oireachtas”.

The IWT is “calling on the government to suspend this legislation and to prioritise a new forestry programme that addresses the biodiversity and climate emergency”.