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Forestry Sector

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Questions (774, 775, 778)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

774. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of afforestation licences issued and the number of Coillte felling licences issued since the assistant secretary of his Department informed the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 29 January 2020 that afforestation needs to be the clear focus for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61441/21]

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Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

775. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way the Forestry Service within his Department plans to reach its own planting afforestation target given it only issued 49 afforestation planting licences in a five-week period from 1 to 29 October 2021 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61442/21]

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Matt Carthy

Question:

778. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the current weekly and monthly number of Coillte felling, private felling, road and afforestation licences issued by type; if a more ambitious target will be adopted in 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61464/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 774, 775 and 778 together.

Tackling the backlog in forestry licenses remains a key priority for my Department and I am pleased to report the significant progress has been made in the past year, particularly on felling and road licences. Since that Oireachtas Committee meeting on 29th January to 10th December, my Department has issued a total of 447 afforestation licences for an area of just over 3,700ha, as well as 1,298 Coillte felling licences, 1,207 private felling licences, and 583 forest road licences.

Along with Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the sector, we accept that in terms of afforestation, outputs are not where I’d like them to be but there are signs of improvement.

My Department is prioritising the assessment of afforestation licences on hand, using the same system as was applied to felling licences. Ten ecologists are now dedicated to afforestation, with more to be recruited. In addition to recruiting new staff I am also reallocating existing Administrative, Forestry Inspectorate and Ecology resources to afforestation licensing files. I expect these changes to result in a higher level of output of afforestation licences than before.

Improvements in afforestation licences should help encourage more planting. However, there are 5,000 hectares of approved forestry licences issued and ready for use. I would encourage anyone with a valid afforestation licence to plant their land, thereby accessing generous annual premiums and 100% establishment grants.

As regards recent licensing output, in the last 14 weeks, we have issued on average 118 licences per week.

A monthly breakdown of licences issued YTD is in the table below.

-

Private Felling

Coillte Felling

Total Felling

Afforestation

Forest Roads

January

98

179

277

36

45

February

54

109

163

48

67

March

47

51

98

56

67

April

64

25

89

73

42

May

103

73

176

48

79

June

220

91

311

39

61

July

73

59

132

12

21

August

66

72

138

18

40

September

258

267

525

34

36

October

149

225

374

43

51

November

123

230

353

50

93

December*

50

96

146

26

27

Totals

1,305

1,477

2,782

483

629

* to 10th December - total issued 3,894

We will reach this year's target of 4,000 licences and my Department is currently working on projections across all licence categories for 2022, which will be published before year end. This will be a more ambitious target.

We will build on this year’s momentum in 2022 and will implement any and all practical process improvements which result from the review and analysis in train under Project Woodland. I remain fully committed to delivering a licensing system which meets the needs of farmers and other land owners who wish to plant trees, as well as delivering for the wider forestry sector and society as a whole

Question No. 775 answered with Question No. 774.
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