Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), with responsibility for forestry, Pippa Hackett, has said there has been a 60% increase in forestry licensing in 2021.

This week, she published the third interim report on the implementation of Project Woodland.

The report, prepared by the Project Board overseeing the project, recorded progress on the implementation of Project Woodland, including a 60% increase in forestry licencing in 2021 compared to last year, and progress on development of a new national Forestry Strategy.

Forestry Strategy

The beginning of the legal and regulatory review, with interaction with the Working Groups, was acknowledged in the report, along with the advancement of the development of the new Forestry Strategy, with a draft vision agreed.

The report detailed that the consultation on the strategy is already underway, with a public attitudes survey and a community engagement survey completed and broader public engagement planned for the New Year.

The minister added that the report noted progress on other objectives, such as the invitation for quotations for a Training Needs Analysis on licensing and the imminent rollout of a Pre-Application Discussions pilot.

Progress on forestry

Welcoming the update, Minister Hackett said: “This third interim report really highlights the enormous range of work ongoing under Project Woodland.

“Progress is never easy on big reform projects like this and there is no silver bullet to resolving these issues, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.

“There is an opportunity to make a real difference and to ensure a bright future for the forestry sector and for society at large.”

The minister added: “There have been some real gains this year not least the continued delivery on licensing. We have issued 4,000 licences this year and exceeded expectations by licensing 8.4 million cubic metres of timber, the highest on record. 

“Our output on forest roads was equally impressive with 260km licensed, double our target.

“I know of course that output on the afforestation side is still very low but my department is prioritising it and will soon be producing more ambitious projections for licensing for 2022, with a focus on afforestation.”

Project Woodland

Project Woodland was established to reform the regulation and vision for forestry in Ireland.

The members of the project board are: Brendan Gleeson (secretary general, DAFM); Jo O’Hara (former CEO Scottish Forestry); Sarah O’Shea (CEO, SOS Sports; honorary general secretary, Olympic Federation Ireland); Jerry Grant (chair, Dublin Port Company).