My Department’s “Reforestation and Felling Policy” document sets out the standard silvicultural and environmental requirements that will apply to new forests established post clearfell. A forest owner wishing to apply for a felling licence is required to specify on the felling licence application and accompanying map, the reforestation objective(s) s/he is proposing to pursue for the next rotation. These reforestation objectives reflect different options regarding the next rotation, from commercial conifers to native woodlands for water protection and biodiversity. The existing Native Woodlands Conservation Scheme can be used to support the conversion of uniform Sitka spruce stands to native woodlands along sensitive watercourses. A new scheme to support continuous cover forestry objectives was included in the mid-term review of the Forestry Programme 2014 -2020.
As part of its assessment of the felling licence application, my Department considers the suitability of the reforestation objective(s) being proposed, thereby informing decisions regarding referrals, the Appropriate Assessment Procedure and conditions to be attached.
The “Reforestation and Felling Policy” document was published in May 2017 and applied to all felling licences issued from that date. In this regard a total of 5,300 licences were issued.
The “Woodland for Water” document was published in June 2018 and sets out a model whereby areas of new native woodland are planted by farmers and other landowners availing of the grants and 15-year premiums under the Native Woodland Establishment Scheme. The focus of this type of woodland establishment is to realise the valuable ecosystem services such forests deliver. Since June 2018, a total of 183 hectares of native woodlands have been established comprising of 44 individual sites.