Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Ceisteanna (1999, 2007)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

1999. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 1003 of 10 March 2021, the analyses and studies his Department relied on when arriving at the decision to make this change (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15135/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

2007. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a copy of the reply to a question at the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine will be provided to this Deputy (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15166/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1999 and 2007 together.

A decision was made to restrict the planting of unenclosed land in December 2010.

Enclosed land is, in general, more fertile and less exposed than unenclosed land and trees planted on enclosed land generally perform much better than trees planted on soil types associated with unenclosed land. This position is supported by many publications including ‘Sitka spruce in Ireland, Joyce, P.M. and OCarroll, N. 2002, and by ‘The distribution and productivity of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) in Ireland in relation to site, soil and climatic factors’. Farrelly N. et al 2009. and the Code of Best Forest Practice - Ireland (2000).

Prior to the decision to restrict planting of unenclosed land, a number of well-known studies supported the position that habitat types associated with unenclosed land are more environmentally sensitive than enclosed land. For example, various studies including ‘Phosphorus release from forest harvesting on an upland blanket peat catchment by Rodgers et al in 2010 established that peat soils do not buffer phosphate in the same way mineral soils do and that there will be a release of phosphate into receiving waters post-harvesting, even with the installation of protective setbacks along watercourses.

Concerns also existed in relation to the importance of unenclosed land for forging and breeding by a wide range of protected bird species (e.g. Hen harrier). Similarly, concerns existed in relation to undesignated Annex 1 habitats such as wet and dry heath, and highly endangered protected species such as freshwater pearl mussel, whose lifecycle is dependent on natural habitats typically associated with unenclosed land. Such environmental issues were discussed at this time with the European Commission.

At the time, another consideration was the fact that many plantations on unenclosed land that received grant and premium aid failed and the Department often engaged with the applicant to recoup the monies paid. This was a difficult process for the Department and the applicant.

The planting on unenclosed land will be reviewed in the context of Project Woodland.