The Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Pippa Hackett has said that a Citizens’ Assembly format will be used to develop a new forestry plan.

The Green Party senator, who has responsibility for the crisis-hit sector, has today (Tuesday January 4) announced plans for an extensive consultation on the new National Forestry Strategy and next forestry programme.

“The development of the next forestry strategy must be grounded in a shared vision that is based on feedback from all stakeholders,” Hackett said.

The minister said that there would be a range of engagements held over the coming year.

“Some of these initiatives include the hosting of a deliberative dialogue, similar to the Citizens’ Assembly model, which seeks to engage with a representative sample from a cross section of society,” she said.

The DAFM said that this event is due to take place in February and March.

The new forest strategy is due to be published by this June and is a key commitment for Project Woodland which was established to address the current licensing backlog.

Forestry Surveys

The minister said she is particularly eager to hear the views of the younger generation on the future of forestry.

“I am delighted that the youth organisation, An Foróige, will run a youth dialogue later this month. We will also reach out to other youth organisations during bilateral engagements, and I encourage all young people to engage in our public consultation.

“Our young people are the ones who will be most affected by the decisions we make today, so we need to put the issues before them, and listen to what they have to say,” Hackett said.

The DAFM also engaged a professional polling company to survey 1,000 people on their views and attitudes on forestry last November and December.

The topics included climate change, recreation, types of forests and the use of wood; the full results of the survey are due to be published later this month.

The minister said that initial results show that three out of four people would like more forests and seven in ten respondents want a mixture of conifers and broadleaf species.

“I hope this survey, which is the first that my Department has carried out, will be followed by similar surveys run periodically to track how attitudes change over the years as we implement our new vision for forestry,” Hackett said.

DAFM will separately carry out an online public consultation in the coming months involving a detailed questionnaire on forestry.

Irish Rural Link was commissioned by the department to engage and survey communities in their network; a report is expected from the group this month.

“Trees, forests and woodland are good for the environment when they are established with the right tree, in the right place, for the right reason, with the right management. Getting all that ‘right’ requires thought and consultation, but I am happy that this work being done by my department, by Project Woodland and by the planned levels of public and stakeholder engagement, will deliver,” Minister Hackett concluded.