Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (495, 496)

Jackie Cahill


495. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the findings of the strategic environmental assessment of the Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020 (details supplied). [51784/19]

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Jackie Cahill


496. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the existing safeguards built into measures in addition to best practice measures adopted by the Forest Service for the strategic environmental assessment of the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 with regard to the impact on Natura 2000 sites. [51785/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 495 and 496 together.

The SEA environmental report concluded that, with the adoption of the listed mitigation measures, it was anticipated that none of the effects identified as adverse in the detailed matrix assessment will be of greater than negligible significance and ensure that, even without adoption of enhancement measures, the overall effect of the Forestry Programme is strongly positive.

In keeping with the obligations arising under Article 10 of DIRECTIVE 2001/42/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL (the SEA Directive), the Department undertakes monitoring in relation to the implementation of the Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020 in relation to all sites and not just those designated as Natura 2000 areas. This monitoring is carried out inter alia in order to be able to identify at an early stage any unforeseen adverse effects and to be able to undertake appropriate remedial action.

The monitoring programme involves the use of:

a. Information collated specifically in relation to projects approved under the programme; and

b. Information available from other sources, i.e. from other existing monitoring and reporting arrangements arising from EU legislation other than the SEA Directive and from national legislation or policies, and which can be indirectly used for purpose of monitoring for significant environmental effects arising from the implementation of the programme.

Reporting on matters related to the implementation of the programme, such as land use change arising through afforestation, total area of forest by cover type, the impact of forest management operations, forest production and carbon sequestration, and forest protection and health, is also undertaken inter alia through the publication of:

- Annual Forest Sector Statistics reports

- National Forest Inventory reports

In terms of revisions to the Forestry Programme and other independent reports on the implementation of the programme with relevance to protection of the environment, the following are relevant:

a. With regard to protecting and enhancing water quality, the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation document published in December 2016 after a public consultation.

b. With regard to the assessment of the economic, social and environmental impacts of land use change to forestry in County Leitrim, the independent study commissioned by the Department from UCD which was published in August of this year.

c. With regard to new measures to support forestry biodiversity in Ireland, the Mid Term Review of the Programme which gave rise to three new measures announced in January 2019 designed to further enhance the sustainability of Irish forestry by supporting key biodiversity initiatives, namely –

- A new scheme to support ‘Continuous Cover Forestry’, (CCF), which allows for the production of commercial timber while retaining forest cover at all times.

- A 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.

- Changes to the Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS) to introduce grant aid to carry out a second thinning intervention for broadleaf forests.

- The introduction of the Woodland Environmental Fund, which provides an access point for individual businesses to help expand Ireland’s native woodland resource by providing additional incentives to encourage landowners to plant new native woodlands.