The current Afforestation Scheme provides a range of grants that cover the full cost of establishment of the plantation and payment of annual premiums to both incentivise planting and to compensate for the loss of agricultural activity on the land that is planted. The Afforestation Scheme is voluntary and demand-led. Financial support for the 2014-2020 Forestry Programme is 100% Exchequer funded under EU State Aid rules.
Forestry Support Schemes include funding for, inter alia, Woodland Improvement Scheme – Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) and the NeighbourWood Scheme along with supports for forest roads, the Forest Service Inspectorate and promotion.
Native woodlands are an important part of Ireland’s natural heritage, history and culture, and are unique in terms of their biodiversity. The objective of the Woodland Environmental Fund (WEF) is to facilitate the planting of more native woodlands within Ireland because of their proven environmental benefits. In doing so, the fund offers an opportunity for businesses to partner with Government and private landowners in creating these diverse woodland habitats.
WEF funding comprises a once off single top up of €1,000/hectare by the partnered business, following payment of the first grant and premium by the Department under its Native Woodland Establishment Scheme. My Department also facilitates contact between foresters and their clients with the Natural Capital Facilitators (NCF). The NCFs will then liaise with the businesses to find projects that best match the business's expectations. As the top-up of €1,000/ha is paid for by the businesses involved, my Department's contribution is our payments under the Native Woodland Establishment Scheme under the main Afforestation Scheme, Grant and Premium Categories 9 and 10.
My colleague, Minister of State Doyle, launched the pilot Continuous Cover Forestry Scheme (CCF) earlier this year, to run until the end of the Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020. This is a scheme that I very much welcome and has been very well received. My Department planned to accept applications for 30 projects over the two years and I am glad to inform the Deputy that this target was reached well ahead of time.
The NeighbourWood Scheme is designed for Local Authorities working in partnership with local communities. Applications can be submitted by Local Authorities on behalf of community groups or by community groups themselves working in conjunction with Local Authorities. The scheme includes a planting component where funding is provided for establishing woodlands on greenfield sites. The scheme aims to provide a “close to home” woodland amenity for the local community to enjoy.
Funding for CCF and NeighbourWood is provided for in the total allocation for all forestry support schemes, which will be €9m in 2020.