Forestry licence backlog must be ‘top priority’ for department – IFA

Fixing the backlog in the issuing of forestry felling licences “must be a top priority” for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Vincent Nally, the association’s forestry chairperson, said that the issuing of felling licences is being delayed by the extension of the Appropriate Assessment Procedures (AAP) – which now require all licence applications to be screened for the “in-combination” effect of the operation for up to 15km on natura sites.

“In some instances, farmers have been waiting in excess of 18 months for a felling licence, which has meant that they are unable to manage their forests, and this is devaluing their investment,” Nally highlighted.

The department has been working over the last few months to develop a new internal system to expand the screening process and to secure additional resources to deal with the extra workload associated with processing licences.

“Now that this work is complete, farmers urgently need to see licences start to issue,” Nally insisted.

The IFA forestry chairperson called for a “targeted approach” by the department to deal with the affected felling licences – of which there are thought to be around 800.

Nally added that the department should give a commitment that the backlog in licence applications will be resolved by the end of next month.

“This would allow the farmers that have been waiting for licences to start to plan and make the necessary arrangements to get the operations started as soon as licences issue,” Nally concluded.

The delay in granting forestry licences has generated significant concern from several quarters.

Back in December, the Association of Farm Forestry Contractors of Ireland (FCI) said that the issue must be resolved to “offset a national disaster with the forestry harvesting contracting sector”.

“These delays, often caused by unwarranted and unsustainable third party objections, are forcing our many forestry harvesting contractors out of work from January 2020,” the FCI said in a statement.

Two days before Christmas, FCI representatives met with Andrew Doyle, the Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, to speak about the problems.