As part of the Programme for Government document drawn up between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, a number of issues in relation to the forestry sector have been addressed.
The proposed coalition has stated in the document that they are fully committed to supporting the sector and have presented a number of new measures that they plan to fulfil in support of the sector.
The first measure proposed is the publishing of a successor forestry programme to deliver an ambitious afforestation plan reviewing grants and premium rates across all categories in this area, with a particular focus on increasing support from farmers.
Implementation of the MacKinnon report and a review of the forestry appeals process are only listed in the document. Ensuring that the appeals process is aligned with other comparable appeals processes and that the licensing system is sufficiently resourced to clear the existing backlog are at the top of the list of priorities.
Other measures outlined in the programme for government are as follows:
- Support the development of on-farm forestry initiatives through the new CAP post-2020, aligning agri-environment schemes with climate change objectives and investing further in knowledge transfer;
- Incorporate afforestation into the new CAP to provide incentives for farmers to plant woodland on their farm, acting as a carbon store, help promote wildlife corridors and provide a future fuel source for the household;
- Actively promote and support farm forestry/rewilding options that do not impact on agricultural production, and support biodiversity and habitat creation. We will incentive, the option of small scale (e.g. one hectacre) forestry/rewilding;
- Embark on an ambitious programme of afforestation on state-owned lands, building on the Coillte/Bord na Móna initiatives;
- Task Climate Action Regional Offices to work with public bodies to review land available for planting, providing feedback on the potential in this area by the end of 2020;
- Institute a state-sponsored national Tree Planting Day and provide communities across the country with trees to plant on this day annually;
- Engage with local authorities and local communities in a radical expansion of urban tree planting and neighbourhood and community forests;
- Promote Close to Nature-Continuous Cover forestry systems to ultimately create permanent biodiverse forests containing trees of all ages;
- Encourage the private sector to meet corporate social responsibility or sustainability objectives by investing in native woodlands, building on the Woodland Environmental Fund programme;
- Promote planting of ‘protection forests’ along rivers and lakes to protect water quality and assist in managing flood risks;
- Provide increased support for the development of agroforestry/ silvopasture on Irish farmlands;
- Continue to uphold the objectives of the Forest Consent System, the Bird and Habitats Directive, the catchment management approach of the Water Framework Directive and the FLEGT regulation;
- Invest in schemes that promote recreational forestry, and work with Coillte on projects such as Coillte Nature, to provide the public with access to recreational forests across the country;
- Expand the NeighbourWood Scheme, providing communities with amenity woodlands for local access and enjoyment and increasing tourism opportunities;
- Ensure Coillte’s remit supports the delivery of climate change commitments and the protection of biodiversity. We are fully committed to the retention of the commercial forests of Coillte in public ownership.