Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Westmeath-Longford Afforestation.

37.

asked the Minister for Lands the acreage of land in the hands of the Forestry Division of his Department in County Westmeath at the latest date for which figures are available; the plans which are under consideration in his Department to expand planting operations in the county; and if, in view of the economic circumstances of many people there due to inceasing unemployment, he will ensure that the maximum possible area is planted so as to provide employment at productive work for the people in their own county and help to prevent emigration.

38.

asked the Minister for Lands the acreage of land in the hands of the Forestry Division of his Department in County Longford at the latest date for which figures are available; the plans which are under consideration in his Department to expand planting operations in the county; and if, in view of the economic circumstances of many people there due to increasing unemployment, he will ensure that the maximum possible area is planted so as to provide employment at productive work for the people in their own county and help to prevent emigration.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 38 together. The answer to the first part of the Deputy's question is in the form of a tabular statement which, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to circulate with the Official Report.

With regard to the rest of the question, the annual planting programme has been restored to 25,000 acres from 1971-72 and this will benefit Counties Longford and Westmeath as well as other counties. It is not expected, however, that this will result in increased employment at forests in these counties, but it is hoped that it will enable existing staffs to be maintained.

Following is the statement:

LAND held by Forest and Wildlife Service at 31/3/72 (acres).

County Longford

County Westmeath

Total area

4,824

9,283

Productive area

4,669

8,786

Woods and Plantations

4,105

8,170

Nominal reserve

564

616

The nominal plantable reserve includes areas which for various reasons (lands subject to grazing and turbary rights, et cetera) are not immediately available for planting.

Is the Minister aware that there were much fewer people employed last year than in previous years? If we are restoring the planting programme to 25,000 acres, how does the Minister say that this will not mean extra work?

There are a number of considerations, partly as regards Longford and Westmeath. The intake of land to some extent determines the extent to which one can keep up the local programme. The position in Longford and Westmeath is not too bad, but it would not suggest that we could increase the programme next year.