The application by the person named under the Afforestation Scheme encompasses lands that are almost entirely located within a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated for the protection of the hen harrier. For this reason, it has not been possible to finalise the processing of the application.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are commencing the development of a Threat Response Plan (TRP) for the conservation of hen harriers. The plan is expected to take approximately two years to complete and forestry will form a significant element of the Plan. The Forest Service will be liaising closely with the NPWS in the formulation of the TRP on aspects relating to afforestation, felling and replanting. It is also understood that the NPWS will engage in a formal public consultation process in relation to the Plan, which it will announce at the appropriate time.
As development of the TRP progresses, and in advance of its completion, opportunities may arise – possibly in late 2014 - to pursue an interim arrangement to allow for the limited issuing of afforestation approvals in some hen harrier SPAs. Until then, the Forest Service will not be in a position to approve any afforestation projects within these SPAs.