Licensing backlog top priority as forestry sector ‘returns to cabinet table’

Forest Industries Ireland (FII) has welcomed the official appointment of Minister of State Pippa Hackett to the forestry portfolio in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – and “as a result the return of the sector’s representation back to the government cabinet table”.

The forestry sector also expressed optimism about Minister Hackett and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Barry Cowen’s recent commitment to the continued development of forestry in Ireland as set out in the Programme for Government.

FII particularly noted the ministers’ commitment to early implementation as well as tackling the various licencing challenges that are currently threatening its viability.

The forestry representative body highlighted the “massive potential that forestry plays in sequestering carbon while being a significant employer in rural communities and where the industry will create a further 6,000 jobs by 2035”.

Commenting on the matter, FII director Mark McAuley said:

“We welcome the appointment of Minister Hackett who we have met already and the return of the forestry sector’s representation to the cabinet table which is something we have sought.

“The new minister has acknowledged already to us the forestry sector’s potential to contribute further to rural jobs and farm incomes while being one of the biggest solutions to the climate change challenge.

The minister is fully briefed on the licensing backlog that is damaging the industry and we look forward to working with her to rapidly improve the current licensing and appeals process which threatens the viability of the sector.

“We also want to focus on a renewed enthusiasm and energy for forestry. We need to reward farmers and get rural communities behind forestry.”

The director stressed that the afforestation programme must be reinvigorated, adding that it would be a case of planting “the right tree, in the right place, for the right reason”.

“Our forest industry makes a €2.3 billion annual contribution to the economy which will increase to €3.45 billion by 2035 and employs 12,000 people across the country.

We are world-beaters in growing trees and producing timber products.

“This is a fast-growing and green industry that will form a big part of Ireland’s burgeoning bioeconomy,” McAuley concluded.