Farmers with forestry can now apply for grants of up to €5,000/ha for restoration work on forestry under a new Native Woodland Conservation Scheme.

The scheme was launched by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Tom Hayes at the National Ploughing Championships.

Funding is provided under the scheme to restore Ireland’s native woodlands, which are rich complex ecosystems and an invaluable part of Ireland’s natural heritage.

“Over €7m has been set aside in the new Forestry Programme for this Scheme allowing for almost 2,000 hectares of native Irish forests to undergo an intensive programme of restoration work over the next five to six years.”

This, he said, will contribute significantly to the future health and vitality of these important woodlands, enriching both the surrounding landscape and ecology of these important habitats.

Under the scheme, up to €5,000/ha will be available for appropriate restoration works, in addition to a seven-year premium for private woodland owners of €350/ha per year.

The Scheme prioritises sites of high ecological significance (included ancient woodlands and designated areas such as Special Areas of Conservation) and also sites where native woodland restoration will ‘deliver’ benefits regarding the protection of watercourses and aquatic habitats.

Typical projects under the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme might include the restoration of existing native woodland (e.g. the removal of invasive species such as rhododendron from forestry, which can destroy native woodland ecosystems); the conversion of existing conifer forests to native woodland, particularly on forestry sites beside sensitive watercourses, and the protection and management of existing ‘scrub’ to capitalise on its ecological value as emerging native woodland.