The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine will meet in Brussels tomorrow (Wednesday, September 6) and Thursday (September 7) to discuss forestry, nature restoration, and Ireland’s nitrates derogation.
According to committee chairperson Jackie Cahill, the “big issue” at the moment is the classification of land available for afforestation.
“We’re seeing too much land that would be suitable for forestry being excluded. With the competition for land that’s there, I just don’t see forestry being able to compete,” Deputy Cahill said.
“What’s the best for climate change? Is it to leave designated land idle or is it better to plant trees on it? To me it makes far more sense to plant trees,” Deputy Cahill added.
Figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) for the week ending September 1, show that so far this year, a total of 61 applications have been received for afforestation licenses, and 12 have been issued.
A total of 207ha were planted last month, which brings the total figure for afforestation this year to 1,227ha.
For the same period last year, the figure stood at 1,717ha.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,094 private felling licenses, and a further 991 Coillte felling licenses have been approved this year to date. 127 forestry road licenses have also been issued so far this year.
“At the moment afforestation levels look like they will remain very low and targets won’t be met,” Deputy Cahill said, adding that the meeting in Brussels will discuss other EU forestry policies.
In response to the latest figures, the Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) said:
“Another month has passed, and our endless pleas remain unanswered, resulting in no change in the dire state of the forestry sector.”
It called on the minister to publish a licensing plan for autumn 2023 and full year for 2024.
“The excuse of the forestry program shambles is no longer available,” SEEFA stated.