Rural community group Save Leitrim has issued a response to the recent announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the matter of the issuing of forestry licences.

Making a number of points on the topic, the group first noted that legislation has not changed in relation to various EU directives covering natura sites such as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Annex listed species.

Because of this, Save Leitrim claims that “all appeals and decisions made to date have been in breach of these regulations”.

It is most likely the forest service was not in compliance with these EU regulations and the Minister [of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Andrew Doyle] and his officials have been dismissive and in contempt when making these decisions.

In addition, noting that the department is set to recruit new ecologists, Save Leitrim has requested a review of “all applications approved in relation to protected habitats and protected species”.

Finally, the group claims: “We know that the minister is very familiar with all of the investors that he has recently met, yet Minister Doyle refuses to meet with any person or group that have highlighted serious ecological and social concerns in relation to grant driven applications.”

Forestry licences

Last week, Minister Doyle noted that there have been delays in the issuing of licences due to necessary changes in the procedures surrounding appropriate assessment, a requirement as part of the approvals process.

“More transparent and robust” procedures are being introduced which will demonstrate the process by which the department arrives at a final decision regarding whether or not a project will adversely affect the integrity of a natura site, according to the department.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that all forestry applications are scrutinised and held to the highest possible environmental standards,” Minister Doyle said.