The Cathaoirleach of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, Jackie Cahill has expressed his disappointment following a recently announced consultation for a new National Forestry Strategy.
The Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary said actions must be taken now to prevent further crises and to save the industry.
“There are clear solutions for many issues affecting this industry and we need to act now to implement them.
“We need action, not talking. We need more licences, not consultations,” Cahill continued.
Although the output of forestry licences through the Department of Agriculture increased, there remains a “significant way to go”.
Cahill also stated that the currently required licence for thinning or forestry roads should be removed. Instead, the initially received licence prior to planting “should and must cover this if common sense is involved”.
“Thinning is a necessary function of managing forestry to allow a crop to reach its full maturity and having to get a licence do this is beyond comprehension,” the TD continued.
The Tipperary TD further addressed the continuing failure to plant enough trees, stating that if carbon reduction targets are to be met, afforestation targets must also be met to allow carbon sequestration.
Only 20-25% of afforestation targets are currently being met in Ireland.
Criticising the national decision on designated land that is not allowed for afforestation, Cahill said:
“When this decision was originally made, the capital value of designated land was decimated and the land available for planting was drastically reduced.
“This was regressive in my view and should now be reversed,” Cahill continued.
Extending the period of premium payments for an additional five years, up to 20, the TD suggests planting land can be made more attractive to farmers.
To have a viable and thriving forestry industry, a significant number of planted trees need to be Sitka Spruce, as native hardwood species play a part in afforestation, according to Cahill.
New forestry strategy
The Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for the forestry sector, Pippa Hackett earlier this week (January 4, 2022) announced plans for an extensive consultation on the new National Forestry Strategy.
A Citizens’ Assembly format will be used to develop a new forestry plan; the new strategy is due to be published by this June.
Announcing the new approch, Hackett said the new strategy “must be grounded in a shared vision that is based on feedback from all stakeholders”.