Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle T.D., recently hosted the third meeting of the Forestry Implementation group.
This group - comprising stakeholders from the forestry sector, producers, the environmental pillar and State Bodies - meets quarterly to review implementation of the National Forestry Programme. During a wide-ranging discussion the Minister offered an update on the recently announced sustainable forestry management schemes, as follows: The Woodland Improvement Scheme, with the introduction of 2nd Thinning grant, has doubled in applications compared to last year; 50% of the expected uptake of the new Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) have been received in just the first six weeks of the scheme; the new Deer Tree Shelter and Deer/Hare Fencing Scheme, which aims to support land owners who wish to plant broadleaves in areas where there is a risk of deer damage, has attracted 10 applications to date; Broadleaf planting increased 25% last year compared to the previous year and now stands at 28% of total planting.
The Minister also reiterated his commitment to increase applications for the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme by five times by the end of the Forestry Programme. This forms part of the 20 Seeds for Nature response arising from the recent National Biodiversity Conference and is part of the national effort to support biodiversity conservation, enhancement and restoration. The Minister also noted that there has been a very strong response to the Department’s call for proposals to promote the multi-functional benefits of forestry, with 40 individual proposals received.
Commenting on the meeting, Minister Doyle stated: “These meetings are an important forum both for updating stakeholders and also for an exchange of views and ideas on the implementation of the National Forestry Programme. The Programme continues to evolve and the effects of the changes we made under the 2018 mid-term review are really starting to be seen, particularly on planting of broadleaf trees. I’m particularly thrilled at the immediate uptake of the CCF measures and the doubling in uptake of our Woodland Improvement Scheme. We have conducted a review of the first year of Knowledge Transfer programme for farmers with forestry and found that the scheme was well received, and I am now proposing a second year of the programme to be announced in the coming weeks”.
A presentation on forestry and the bio-economy and the various forestry research project calls was also given to the Implementation Group. Teagasc updated on their initiatives to promote forestry including the feedback from their series of nationwide clinics in January and February. The Minister also confirmed that DAFM and Teagasc will be engaging in some promotion initiatives to coincide with the upcoming UN International Day of Forests.
The Minister concluded “Planting rates under the Forestry programme to date this year are showing an increase on last year but I am well aware that we can and must do better, particularly if forestry is to continue to make its contribution to our environmental goals and the rural economy. Implementation of the Programme remains a key priority and we are closely monitoring this”.