Further to the Government decision that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests be considered for sale, NewERA, Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department have worked to examine the financial and other implications of developing the potential of Coillte’s forest assets. The process is at an advanced stage and, aside from the identification and valuation of the forestry assets, a number of issues have been identified in relation to the possible harvesting rights concession. The future management of the estate, the maintenance of existing amenities and public access to recreational land are some of the issues being considered as part of the analysis.
I am aware that Coillte currently manages 10 Forest Parks and over 150 recreation sites throughout Ireland and that their forests provide a range of recreational opportunities for the general public continuing a long tradition of open access to state owned forests. I am also conscious that such recreational facilities are also very valuable resources as tourism attractions in the various regions. As previously stated, it is the Government’s intention that appropriate provisions would be included in any sale of Coillte harvesting rights to allow for the maintenance of the company’s current open forest policy.
While the consideration process is at an advanced stage, no decision has been taken, as yet. The outcome of the overall analysis will be considered by the Government upon its completion.