The Social Economic and Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA) has called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to immediately publish the planned output per forestry licence and scheme type for 2022.  

The private forestry group criticised the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) for failing to meet forestry licensing targets.

SEEFA chairman, Teige Ryan of None So Hardy Forestry, said that afforestation levels reached their lowest since 1949 and that the DAFM failed to reach its own target of 4,500 licences in 2021.

Only 12% of the 4,035 issued licences were for afforestation despite announced commitment for 2021 by the DAFM, according to Ryan.

Paddy Bruton of Forestry Services Ltd. and Padraig Egan of Axe Forestry, who are also members of SEEFA have criticised Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Pippa Hackett’s, announced progress of licences in 2021, which they claim is not supported by the recently published forestry licensing figures.

“We need to see action rather than the spinning of fairy tales from Senator Hackett,” SEEFA stated.

Licensing backlog

Imelda Connolly of Green Belt, has highlighted the potential of large-scale tree planting to mitigate climate change and said that figures on felling licences are evident of the licensing backlog.

This month there are 4,742 forestry licences still outstanding including 878 for afforestation, 3,285 for felling and 579 road licences, according to SEEFA.

The group said that a far greater number of felling licence applications are submitted than the number of licences issued by the DAFM. Also, the number of grant-aided forest road meters constructed in 2021 was 29% lower than in the year previous, according to Tomás Hanrahan of Forestlink Ltd.

Constructing forest roads and thinning of forests need to be carried out in a timely manner, which is not possible under the current licensing system, to the disadvantage of the crop and the expense of the forest owner, John Roche of Arbor Forest Management Ltd., added.

Roche said that “it is crucially important that timelines are introduced within which the forest service must process and finalise all licence and scheme applications”.

SEEFA solutions

SEEFA stated that the five solutions the private forestry group put forward in November continue to be ignored by the DAFM.

These solutions include the full implementation of the MacKinnon report, maximum timelines in the licensing system and the integration of afforestation into the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Also the creation of a forestry development agency to promote and represent the sector and political support allied to leadership in the forest service, are part of the proposed SEEFA solutions.