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Government Approves New Measures for Irish Forestry Sector

Commitment in Ireland 2040 National Development Plan for post-2020 Afforestation Programme

Andrew Doyle, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, has welcomed today’s decision by Government to adopt the proposals arising from the Mid-Term Review of the Government’s current Forestry Programme. The Review was prepared by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to review the implementation of the Government’s Forestry Programme 2014-2020.

Minister Doyle commented: “I very much welcome the adoption by Government today of this review. It recognises clearly the contribution which forestry continues to make to the economy, environment and society in Ireland. The review is an extremely comprehensive exercise informed by detailed stakeholder consultations.  The changes recommended by the conclusions of the Midterm Review are primarily aimed at enhancing the environmental benefits of forestry while at the same time addressing the shortfall in key target areas. These measures address some of the key issues arising from our review of the Programme to date and range from improved rates for planting to measures to assist with mobilisation of the significant timer resource from private forest which will become available in next few years”.

The proposals were the outcome of a public call for submissions and a series of consultation meetings with stakeholders and the European Commission and were subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment screening exercise, which was recently concluded. The Report notes that total afforestation figures for the first three years of the Programme show that overall planting is some 7% less than the cumulative target for these years and also that planting of broadleaf trees are falling below the 30% target for this category.

The Minister welcomed the improved rates for planting broadleaves in the report commenting “these significant increases will promote greater species and habitat diversity and will help the Department to deliver on our commitment to achieve an annual broadleaf planting target of 30%. I would also highlight a new second thinning grant for broadleaf forests and drew attention to a new continuous cover forestry initiative which will also contribute to creating richer and more varied habitats by encouraging existing forest owners to develop uneven aged forests.

The most significant improvements in grant and premium rates are aimed at those planting categories that may prove most attractive to farmers – such as agroforestry and forestry for fibre. Agro-forestry will allow farmers to plant trees while continuing to graze their animals on the same land with this land use system suitable for producing woodfuel or, where appropriate, high quality hardwood timber.  The aim of the Forestry for Fibre scheme is also to facilitate production of renewable energy for either domestic or local commercial use.   While more traditional forestry has a rotation of approximately 35 to 40 years, the species planted under the Forestry for Fibre scheme have a rotation of up to 15 years, which equates to the number of annual premium payments for forestry for fibre – this means that a payment of €510 per hectare is payable each year up to the time the plantation is felled.

Referring to the increased rates now on offer, Minister of State Doyle added:

The higher premium rates introduced under the Midterm Review will make it even more attractive for farmers to plant trees. Farm forestry presents a real opportunity for landowners to increase their income while continuing to farm. Planting part of a farm, perhaps the more remote or more difficult land with trees can introduce a new source of income while allowing landowners to maintain their existing output.”

The implementation of the Governments’ Forestry Programme to 2020 remains a priority, particularly attainment of the national afforestation targets and its alignment with broader Government policy on the environment. For this reason, the Minister is establishing a stakeholder group to assist in monitoring the implementation of the Programme. The Group will be chaired by the Minister and will include representatives of the forestry sector, environmental NGOs and other relevant bodies. Further details will be announced on this in due course and it is expected that the Group will meet within one month of the publication of this review and quarterly thereafter.

Recalling the discussion at the FoodWise Conference hosted by the Department in Croke Park in December 2017, the Minister of State commented that “Forestry combines the best climate mitigation land use that we have as well as a viable and sustainable land use income for farmers. This is why the Ireland 2040 Development Plan has a specific commitment to having a publicly funded afforestation programme beyond 2020. Priority now is to ensure that the targets to 2020 are delivered. The new measures and increased rates introduced following the Midterm Review will, I believe, create the conditions for more forests to be planted. I would encourage all landowners to examine the schemes and new rates and seriously consider afforestation now”.

NOTE FOR EDITORS

The report and its Executive Summary can be found at

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/forestservice/forestservicegeneralinformation/forestryprogramme2014-2020midtermreview/

  • Further details on the Department’s Forestry Schemes can be found at:

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/forestservice/grantsandpremiumschemes2015-2018/

  • Summary of changes following adoption of midterm review proposals - Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020

Measure 1: Afforestation and creation of woodlands

Grant and premium increases

  • 7% increase in all broadleaves and diverse conifer grant categories  i.e. GPC4 to GPC 10
  • 5% increase in all broadleaves and diverse conifer premium categories i.e. GPC 4 to GPC 10
  • 2% increase in grant amount for GPC 1 to GPC 3
  • 2% in premium rate for all plantations greater than 10 hectaresThe minimum mandatory requirement per site is increased to 15% broadleaves.

GPC = Grant and Premium Category

 Forest Fencing and Tree Shelter Scheme

  • New deer fencing provision of €16.25/m, for IS436 @ 140 m/ha
  • Upgrade deer fencing rates €8/m, for IS436 @ 140 m/ha
  • A contribution of up to €300/ha for tree shelters aimed mainly, but not exclusively,

at protecting broadleaves in the category “Additional Broadleaves, ADB”

  • A contribution of €2.5/m up to a maximum of 140m per ha for forests that have been subject to hare damage after Form 2 payment and up to approval for Form 3 payment

Forestry for fibre

  • Number of premiums increased from 10 to 15
  • Grant per hectare increased to match that of GPC 3 (from €2,450 to €3,815)
  • Premium rate per hectare increased to equal GPC3 (from €180 to €510)

Agroforestry

  • Premium rate per hectare increased to equal GPC6 (from €260 to €645)
  • Grant per hectare increased to match that of GPC 3 (from €4,450 to €6,220)
  • Eligible for grants under Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS) for thinning, tending and pruning

All relevant GPC categories

  • Additional Fencing: IS436 increased to maximum grant of €600 (140m/ha)

Measure 2: Neighbourwoods

  • The scheme now open to applications throughout the year
  • Increased coordination and promotion of this scheme
  • Increased allocation will be made available to reflect the scale of works being undertaken within individual projects under this scheme

Measure 3: Forest Roads

  • Road density increased from 20m/ha to 25m/ha

Measure 5: Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS)

  • The WIS scheme will now be opened up to non grant aided broadleaf forests and all broadleaved mixtures that meet the required eligibility criteria.
  • Furthermore, all broadleaved forests, including mixtures will be eligible for 2nd thinning grants of €500/ha.

Support for Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF)

This element of WIS is now open to conifer, mixed and broadleaf forests; successful applicants are eligible for three WIS payments (€750) for three separate interventions under the WIS scheme over a period of 12 years, once the work is in line with the approved transformation to CCF plan

Measure 6: Native Woodland Conservation

  • Increased grant available under the Public High Forest category to match that of the Private High Forest.
  • Access now allowed to forest fencing and tree shelter scheme.
  • Fencing allowances available under the Afforestation Grant & Premium Scheme now also apply to Native Woodland Scheme (Conservation)

Measure 7: Knowledge Transfer and Information Actions

Introduction of a national scheme for Forestry Knowledge Transfer Groups (KTG) focusing on the mobilisation of timber and biomass

Measure 10: Forest Genetic Reproductive Material

  • Seed Stand & Seed Orchard Scheme open for applications all year round.
  • Seed Stand Element
    • grant aid/ha increased to €750/ha (€600 first instalment and €150 for second instalment). Objectives changed to reflect lower expectations for Seed stands and 2-3 seed orchards each year for the remaining time of the programme.
    • Additional fencing grant allowance. For areas susceptible to deer damage and where deemed appropriate by the Forest Service, additional support for deer fencing will be provided to protect the stand. This will be paid in accordance with the rates and densities per hectare as described in the revised Afforestation Scheme document. However, if additional deer fencing is required, this will be considered on a case by case basis.
    • Applications for Douglas fir, Scots pine, Western red cedar, and western hemlock will be considered

Measure 11: Forest Management Plans

A new Forest Management Plan and Certification Scheme is proposed which will support certification of privately owned forests.

ENDS

Date Released: 20 February 2018