Thursday, 18 February 2021

Questions (323)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

323. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9163/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department met with DG Environment in Brussels in late 2017 on a number of forestry issues including the mid-term review of the Forestry programme, planting on unenclosed land and broadleaf planting. In relation to unenclosed land, the Department proposed that the implementation on the ground of two new documents on site classification and environmental requirements was sufficient to remove the 20% rule.

Following this meeting, the Commission responded in writing outlining their position. In this they "recognised the efforts of the Forestry Service to introduce a system of environmental impact assessment into the afforestation approvals process, but we did not find these documents sufficiently clear to give us all the reassurances we would need to consider that the system was now failsafe with regard to environmental protection, which might justify lifting the 20% rule".

Their conclusion was that from "a closer look at the two documents is that, in their current state, these do not appear to provide a sufficiently clear or stringent system to reassure us that environmental risks from afforestation are a thing of the past so rendering the 20% rule an unnecessary safeguard against inappropriate afforestation."

The new Forestry Programme which will be under preparation soon offers an opportunity to examine this issue again and my Department in consultation with all stakeholders will be doing this.