All of us who are interested in forestry in Ireland generally share the same objectives. These are to have a well-functioning forestry licensing system, a clear and shared vision for the future of forestry in Ireland, and a new forestry programme which will encourage sustainable forest creation and management that meets societal needs.
In line with these objectives, I set up Project Woodland more than a year ago to tackle the licensing issue and the backlog and to focus on developing a new forest strategy to promote woodland creation. We have made significant progress, along with a wide range of stakeholders from the forestry sector. Among other things, we now have clarity on the regulatory framework, the definition of a backlog, and the principles which will underpin the forest strategy.
Regarding the licensing system, we have committed to issuing 5,250 licences this year. That is an ambitious target and is an increase of 30% on last year. Up to 30 June, the Department issued 2,449 licences, just short of the projected average of 2,635, which is 93% of the target we had planned to reach at this stage. We are close to or above our projected target across the individual categories of private felling, Coillte felling and roads. While afforestation is not at the same level, I fully expect the number of licences to increase in the second half of the year and for us to deliver on our projections, which have been shared with the sector.
We have made, and continue to make, improvements to our system. We have recruited extra resources, with 35 full-time ecologists now in place. We are implementing the recommendations from a business process review, with 39% of those complete or in progress. In addition, the Department is now developing an action plan for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the independent regulatory review of the forestry licensing system, with some of those already in hand.
Regarding the backlog, the Department currently has 3,148 applications on hand. Since 1 January, this figure has reduced from 4,800, and from 6,000 in August 2021. This is significant progress. The number of applications now in backlog, that is, for more than 120 days, now stands at 2,500, and we intend to maintain our momentum in reducing this number.