The fourth meeting of the national Forestry Policy Group took place today Thursday, April 22, chaired by the Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett.

The meeting was convened to monitor progress on the implementation of Project Woodland, which Minister Hackett established earlier this year, to review and implement national forest policy.

The group was told that an external project manager for Project Woodland has been hired and will take up the role shortly.

The minister said: “I was very encouraged by the progress reported at today’s meeting. The updates delivered by the chairs of the project board and of each of the four working groups, demonstrated that Project Woodland has really hit the ground running. 

“All the groups have met on several occasions since February, and the work done and the plans outlined today, indicate they all have solid roadmaps to delivery.

“I was also happy to hear that not only are the working groups busy with their respective work programmes, but they have set up communication links between them to ensure consistency of approach. It all shows, I believe, that we are well on the way to addressing the difficulties the sector is currently facing and to developing a new forest strategy.”

Forestry Policy Group

Today’s fourth meeting of the Forestry Policy Group discussed the workplans presented by each working group as part of the group’s remit to steer and monitor the direction of Project Woodland.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), members were told that work is well underway on looking at the backlog and more effective processes.

The meeting also heard about a SWOT and PESTLE analysis which has started as a first step towards the development of the new Forestry Strategy.

It is expected that the public engagement plan for the strategy will be finalised by June this year and then rolled out during the remainder of the year. 

There was also discussion at the meeting about a launch of a call for proposals for Woodland Support Funding in Ireland for 2021/2022. The call is expected to be made next week.

Tackling the backlog

At the meeting Minister Hackett emphasised her department’s investment in trying to overcome the current licencing difficulties.

She said the measures taken include recruitment of an external project management advisor by her department. The advisor will take up the post on May 4, and will be quickly followed by a systems analyst to undertake a full process review.

She told the forestry group members that the Irish Rural Link study on community attitudes to forestry is in its preparatory phase and will begin in mid-May.

“Project Woodland was established to look at the complex issues the forestry sector is facing. The context in which we have to operate for resolving these issues is a combination of environmental, economic and social needs,” the junior minister said.

“I am therefore very grateful for the ongoing commitment of all the participating individuals and organisations for giving their time and expertise to plot a brighter and more sustainable future for forestry in Ireland. We are making real progress here and I will continue to work with all stakeholders to implement this.”

Project Woodland

The progress of Project Woodland is overseen by a project board, chaired by the secretary general of DAFM, Brendan Gleeson.

The board has met three times since the project was launched and is providing external guidance and expertise.

Members of the Forestry Policy Group include representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Teagasc, Coillte and several others.