I fully support the planting of native woodland and this is reflected in the generous financial incentives available in the current Forestry Programme 2014-2020, which contains two grant and premium categories specifically targeted at Native Woodland Establishment. These planting categories attract the highest grant and premium rates of all categories under my Department’s afforestation scheme. The mid-term review of the Forestry Programme, completed early last year increased these rates even further in order to encourage more landowners to plant native trees. The premium is paid each year for fifteen years at a rate of €665 per hectare.
Other supports include two Woodland Improvement Scheme grants of €750/ha and €500/ha to thin forests at different stages of the forest development to ensure a healthy and sustainable forest and a very successful Forest Knowledge Transfer Scheme to promote a forestry culture and improve the forest management skills of private forestry owners in Ireland. Participants on the Forest Knowledge Transfer scheme are paid €70 for attending each of the seven training modules.
Furthermore, the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme funds the protection and enhancement of existing native woodlands and, where appropriate, the conversion of conifer forests to native woodlands.
The Deputy may be interested to know that we also have in place a Woodland Environmental Fund which provides an opportunity for businesses to partner with the Government and Irish landowners to support the national effort to plant an additional 5 million native trees between now and 2020. This will result in an additional once-off top up payment of €1,000 per hectare to participating landowners.
I would encourage all landowners to consider forestry and in particular native woodlands as a land use option as these forests will become a long-lasting feature of our landscape, providing environmental benefits on an ongoing basis and adding colour and diversity to an area that can be enjoyed by local people and visitors alike.