The second interim report on the implementation of Project Woodland provides an update on progress to date, including recommendations from the four working groups.
‘Notable achievements’ include the appointment of a new director of forestry in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and the completion of a tender process to address four recommendations in the Jo O’Hara review of Mackinnon. The report states that “the proposal to initiate a process of pre-application discussions by registered foresters with DAFM expertise is well advanced”, while the proposal for a new environmental planning grant is “substantially progressed”.
A full regulatory review of forestry is to be conducted by external consultants Philip Lee, “which will be submitted in February 2022,” according to Minister Hackett.
“There is little doubt that progress is being made, but it is 10 months on since the establishment of Project Woodland and over two years since the Mackinnon review, so a deadline should be in sight by now,” said Teige Ryan on behalf of the Social, Economic, Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA).
Members of SEEFA welcomed the appointment of new director Barry Delaney and were impressed that he met protesters. Ministers McConalogue, Hackett and Ryan declined SEEFA’s invitation to meet them at the rally.
“Mackinnon was appointed first to address afforestation, as his report had reenergised the Scottish planting programme,” said Teige Ryan.
“This core objective should be central in all interim reports.”
Pat O’Sullivan, technical director of the Society of Irish Foresters welcomed the board’s intention to “highlight progress against each of the recommendations in the Mackinnon and O’Hara reports”.
The Project Woodland board has stated that “urgent prioritisation is now focused on afforestation.”
Planting decline in dashboard data
The Department dashboard provides data on licences issued for afforestation, felling and forest road construction for the private sector and Coillte. An average of 134 licences were issued each week in September, which dropped to 107 in October. A spokesperson for one of the forestry companies said it was disappointing that “licences were slipping again”.
He said afforestation licences were “depressingly low for the third successive year, despite widespread recruitment of ecologists and foresters this year, which were issuing little more than one afforestation licence each per month.”
Only 7% of all licences were for afforestation in September, compared with 9% in October – an average of less than 10 per week. Licences issued by year end will be down on last year’s 4,342ha, which at a 60% conversion rate, is likely to yield an afforestation programme of less than 2,400ha for 2021.
Minister of State Pippa Hackett recently launched A Guide for Landowners to Managing Roadside Trees. Published by the Department in association with the Tree Council of Ireland, the guide was compiled by Eileen Woodbyrne, Roy Goodwin and Cormac Downey.
“The guide emphasises the benefits of roasdside trees,” said Tree Council president Éanna Ní Lamhna.
“It clarifies the risks and responsibilities of owners of roadside trees, and sets out a simple and cost-effective programme that landowners can follow to ensure they conserve their trees while meeting their legal requirements.” It is designed to steer landowners through the process of caring for roadside trees. Farmers in particular will be interested in the publication, which can be accessed by googling ‘A Guide for Landowners to Managing Roadside Trees’.
The final two free webinars organised by the Irish Timber Growers Association will take place on November 18 and 25. Visit www.forestry.ie/insights to register. The following two webinars begin at 10am and conclude at 11.30am.
The webinars are part-funded by the Department and supported by the Irish Farmers Journal.