Forestry licencing: ‘Entire sector on the line unless we get this right fast’

There is “no sign of the chaos and dysfunction within the forestry felling and licencing system being effectively addressed”, according to independent TD Carol Nolan.

Commenting on the matter, the TD for Laois-Offaly said that the issue has now reached a point where the capacity to maintain employment in the industry is now actively under threat.

Deputy Nolan was speaking after receiving a reply to a parliamentary question she had submitted on the matter following numerous representations from tree planting farmers and those within the wider forestry sector.

“Most of this is down to the pre-licencing compliance requirements that have emerged since the European Court of Justice made its ruling in 2019,” she said.

This has created the space for an enormous amount of appeals to be made against the issuing of licences under the ‘Ecology’ heading.

“As I understand it, however, up to early March of this year there were still only two ecologists dealing with forestry licences with an additional four local ecologists being deployed on contract to provide extra support.

“This has clearly done next to nothing to reduce the backlog and the subsequent threat to employment that is being created.

“There is just way too much uncertainty and red tape for people to navigate,” the TD stressed.

“Jobs and indeed an entire sector is on the line here unless we get this right and get it right fast.

This is also totally counter-productive from an environmental point of view. What farmer is going to be encouraged to take up forestry if this is the level of dysfunction that they will have to deal with on a regular basis?

“This is in turn will drive down even further our capacity to meet the kind of annual afforestation targets which are set out in the Climate Mitigation Plan.

“The department needs to immediately implement measures that will effectively address this problem,” deputy Nolan concluded.