The day-to-day management of its forest estate is a matter for, and the responsibility of, Coillte as a commercial State body. Coillte was established under the Forestry Act 1988 and one of its functions is to carry on the business of forestry and related activities on a commercial basis and in accordance with efficient silvicultural practices. I have therefore asked Coillte to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to its use of Continuous Cover Forestry practices.
I am well aware of the benefits of Continuous Cover Forestry which is why I recently introduced a Continuous Cover Forestry Scheme under the Forestry Programme. This was a key commitment under the mid-term review of the Programme and was launched as part of a suite of biodiversity measures by my Department recently. I am delighted to say that all the measures have been very well received and that application rates have exceed our expectations.
Under this Scheme, forest owners receive support for the management of suitable conifer, broadleaf and mixed conifer/broadleaf forests in accordance with this alternative approach. Under this approach the forest canopy is maintained at one or more levels without clearfelling.
Continuous Cover Forestry opens up the canopy through thinning enabling more light to reach the forest floor, thereby allowing plants to re-colonise the forest area, increasing biodiversity. In addition, thinning opens up forest areas for walking and other recreational uses and improve the visual amenity of forests. Thinning, by opening up tree crowns to light, also promotes higher levels of tree seed production which favours natural regeneration systems and close-to-nature silviculture.
I am delighted to note the interest in this Scheme so far. We already have over half our anticipated applications which augurs well for the success of this important forest management measure.