The Forestry Knowledge Transfer Groups scheme is a completely separate exchequer-funded scheme aimed at forest owners, with different requirements and conditions to that of the other Knowledge Transfer schemes operating under the RDP 2014-2020. In designing the scheme, my Department consulted with stakeholders and the scheme was trialled during the pilot phase. The 2018 Scheme enjoyed excellent level of participation, with over 600 forest owners taking part.
The aim of the KT scheme for forestry is to improve knowledge of forest management amongst as many of the 20,000 private forest landowners in the country as possible. In this regard, it was decided that priority use of the available budget in the first three years of the scheme should go to giving as many of this group as possible access to at least one year of the programme. This will help build a solid foundation of forestry knowledge among a strong cohort of landowners. This can be reviewed at the end of the three years pilot programme.
I would emphasise though that there is absolutely nothing to stop any KT group continuing to meet beyond their one year in the scheme, either formally or informally, at their own initiative. In fact, this is something I would actively encourage and there are options for them to do so either through their local Producer Group for example or to establish a discussion group.
I am pleased to note that the Scheme recently launched for 2019, allowing for a fresh intake of participants, and has attracted considerable interest. These applications are currently being reviewed with a view to approving new groups shortly.