The last time we did a forestry wishlist was for the year 2019. Apart from Brexit, virtually all the areas of concern then, have yet to be resolved.

Those who responded to the request for three wishes in December 2018 bemoaned the poor afforestation performance which had fallen to 5,536ha the previous year.

Little did they know that within two years, planting would fall to 2,434ha and forestry licences would still be a live issue.

It is no surprise then that afforestation, licence regulation and approval, forestry promotion through an independent forestry development agency and ash dieback are still core wishes.

Carbon trading, climate change and the need to incorporate forestry in CAP will be key issues in 2022, as well as the findings of Project Woodland.

The following is a summary of stakeholders’ wishes for the coming year and beyond.

Vincent Nally, IFA

“There are so many issues that need fixing,” said Vincent Nally, chair of the IFA farm forestry committee. “For example, a resolution to the ash dieback debacle, will remain a priority for the IFA,” he said. He chose the following three wishes:

  • That the work of Project Woodland would see the onerous regulatory system revised to deliver a predictable, affordable and streamlined service for forest owners.
  • That the carbon sequestration potential of forests be rewarded with the provision of opportunity for farmers to monetise this value.
  • That a forestry development agency would be set up to support this important national resource.
  • Mark McAuley, FII

    Mark McAuley, director of Forest Industries Ireland (FII) highlighted forestry regulation, farmer afforestation and wood promotion in his three wishes to:

  • Reform forestry regulation as it is strangling the growth of forestry.
  • Really incentivise and reward farmers to plant forests, and make it easier for them to manage crops.
  • Create a “timber first” policy for all public buildings and housing so we build more with wood.
  • Paddy Bruton, Forestry Services Ltd and Euroforest Ireland

    Paddy Bruton, director of Forestry Services Ltd and Euroforest Ireland, said: “Let 2022 be a year of regrowth and restoration of confidence and stability in this great rural indigenous industry.” He said that to achieve its potential, the sector needs a forestry development agency which would help in granting the following wishes:

  • Real dynamic political leadership recognising what the private sector can deliver for climate change and for our economy.
  • The inclusion of afforestation in CAP in a really meaningful manner.
  • The owners of ash dieback plantations be treated by the Department in a humane and respectful manner.
  • Teige Ryan, None so Hardy Nurseries

    Teige Ryan’s medium-term wish was for the establishment of an independent forestry development agency.

    However, the director of None so Hardy Nurseries and chair of the Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) decided on the following three wishes that could be achieved this year with political will and commitment by the Department:

  • Approve the environmental grant to get first Project Woodland measure implemented as proposed by Working Group 4.
  • Introduce fit-for-purpose ash reconstitution and replanting scheme (RUS) and frost damage reconstitution supports within a functioning licensing system with statutory timelines.
  • Approve industry recommendations to fully integrate afforestation through the CAP.
  • Pat O’Sullivan, Society of Irish Foresters

    Pat O’Sullivan, technical director, Society of Irish Foresters, called for:

  • The establishment of an independent forestry development agency to promote the forestry and forest products sector.
  • The acknowledgement of the central role of foresters in forest management and tree species selection to ensure the right trees are planted in the right places.
  • The delivery of a carbon based afforestation programme to achieve zero carbon by 2050.
  • John Roche, Arbor Forest Management Ltd

    John Roche, MD, Arbor Forest Management Ltd, selected the following wishes:

  • Introduce a time limit for each forestry licence application.
  • Remove the requirement for thinning to require a felling licence. Thinning is a vital management operation and should be treated as such.
  • Growers with ash plantations to be finally looked after. They have been treated disgracefully by the Forest Service. A simple workable compensation and reconstitution scheme needs to be introduced immediately to allow them to deal with diseased crops early in 2022.
  • Olive Leavy, Irish Forest Owners

    Olive Leavy’s wishes reflect forest owners difficulties in relation to forestry licences and ash dieback. The secretary of the Irish Forest Owners hopes for:

  • A speedy solution to the ash dieback debacle by providing realistic compensation, including premium payments to growers with infected plantations.
  • A resolution to the licensing mess, once and for all, through legislative change including the removal of forest management from the licensing process.
  • A Forest Service that works for forest owners and accepts the need for change to create a new viable industry.
  • Dermot Houlihan, AIFC

    Dermot Houlihan, chair, Association of Irish Forestry Consultants (AIFC), asked for:

  • A licensing system that allows foresters and forest owners to thin and tend their forests without hindrance, as is the case in the rest of the EU.
  • A solution and appropriate compensation scheme for the thousands of forest owners sickened by ash dieback disease.
  • The establishment of a forest development agency.
  • One wish

    A few respondents decided that if one wish was realised in 2022, they would be happy.

    This cohort included Clodagh O’Reilly, Coillte director of sales and supply chain; Marina Conway, CEO, Western Forestry Co-operative; Des O’Toole, marketing and communications director, FII; and Donal Whelan, director Irish Timber Growers Association.

    Clodagh O’Reilly wished: “That the full spectrum of tangible benefits that the forestry sector delivers are recognised and included in forestry policy so that the sector can lead the way for a sustainable future.”

    My wish is for a licence system that would work for, rather than against farmers

    Marina Conway said although the creation of a forestry development agency and a carbon payment for native woodland owners needed to be addressed, she would be pleased if just one wish was granted.

    “My wish is for a licence system that would work for, rather than against farmers, and allow them to plant and fell trees as a normal part of their farming enterprise,” she said.

    Donal Whelan said: “Despite forestry’s contribution to biodiversity, flood control, air quality, wellness and particularly climate change mitigation, our woodland owners do not receive remuneration for supplying these public goods to society.”

    He called for “the development of a Forestry Carbon Code (FCC), which has real potential for the State and forest owners.”

    Des O’Toole focused on his role in promoting and marketing homegrown sawn timber products.

    “As we transition to a low-carbon economy, that the value of our commercial forestry sector to deliver low carbon, local and sustainable wood products is acknowledged and supported through ‘wood first’ policies,” was his sole wish.