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Forestry Sector

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 20 May 2021

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Questions (64)

Dara Calleary

Question:

64. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to improve the felling licence process here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27010/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Forestry and issues currently affecting the sector are a priority for my Department and for me and I fully recognise its importance to farmers, forest owners, forestry contractors, sawmills and wood processors and to the rural economy as a whole.

I know that in order to fully deliver on the potential of the sector, we need a well-functioning licensing system. I am the first to acknowledge that we have fallen short in terms of turnaround time for licences. Steps have been taken to address the situation, and we have invested hugely in resources with more ecologists, forestry inspectors and administrative staff assigned to licensing. This has seen some gains in output but more work remains to be done. We have set ourselves an ambitious target of 4,500 new licences for this year which is a 75% increase on last year and we are determined to meet this target.

In terms of felling, the volume of timber licensed this year is up 27% on the same period last year. In terms of product to sawmills, Coillte which is the main provider is fully licensed on felling licences for the year albeit not all of their output is immediately available.

My colleague, Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has responsibility for forestry, has established Project Woodland, to work with stakeholders to examine all aspects of forestry, including a review of processes with a view to reducing the licensing backlog. This process is being implemented intensively and the Working Groups are meeting regularly and I understand are shortly due to come forw3ard with recommendations in some cases. The Working Group dealing with the backlog is working on publishing a process and targets for its reduction and other improvements to the system and structure are being examined.

Along with Minister Hackett, I remain hopeful that the framework now in place under Project Woodland will address our current difficulties and will result in a licensing system which meets the needs of forest owners, with attendant benefits for all those involved in the sector. I can assure Deputies that no effort is being spared to resolve these difficulties and the issue remains a top political priority for me and my Department.

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