Funding to be made available for forestry promotion initiatives

Funding will be made available in January for initiatives aimed at promoting forestry and the “benefits of trees and woodlands”.

This is according to Minister of State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett, who yesterday (Thursday, December 17) hosted the second meeting of the newly established Forestry Policy Group.

Speaking afterwards, the minister said: “However, our priorities and objectives for new afforestation have changed over time as we have developed a greater appreciation of the multiple roles that forestry plays… This must be reflected in our approach to promotion.

I am delighted to announce today that I will be launching a significant call for proposals in January to make available funds for stakeholders with initiatives in this area.

Yesterday’s meeting was shown presentations by Teagasc representatives about the agency’s promotion plan for 2021. The stakeholder groups provided their views on “what works” in terms of promoting forestry and where the focus should be. These will be taken into account in shaping the new call for promotion proposals in the New Year, Minister Hackett said.

The group also received an update from Jo O’Hara, who was recently appointed by the minister as an advisor on the Mackinnon Report.

The Mackinnon report was released last November and was drawn up by James Mackinnon CBE, a former senior planner with the Scottish government. The report made several recommendations to ensure that the forestry sector was “fit for purpose”.

Jo O’Hara was formally a British forestry commissioner; the chief forester for Scotland; and the chief executive of Scottish Forestry. She now works as a private consultant.

O’Hara told the stakeholders that she has met many of the forestry stakeholders and would meet with others in the coming weeks to get an overview on the different perspectives and issues. Her report will be delivered to the group by the end of February.

Minister Hackett said that there had been a “sustained improvement” in licensing output since the introduction of new forestry legislation in October.

However, she acknowledged that there was “still some way to go to fully resolve the issues”. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will recruit more personnel on the forestry side early in the new year, she said.

Yesterday’s meeting was attended by a range of stakeholders including nurseries, sawmills and contractors, as well as environmental NGOs; representatives from community; farmer and grower representatives; and relevant state bodies.