The Cabinet has approved the final version of the new Forestry Program 2023-2027 during a special meeting in Co. Wicklow today (Wednesday, September 6).
The Forest Strategy, which covers the period to 2030, was also published today.
It aims to significantly increase the diversity and range of Irish forests, with the objective of contributing to biodiversity, sustainability and climate change goals.
The government said that an implementation plan, which includes the Forestry Programme, will realize the ambitions in the Forest Strategy.
This plan will target forest creation; agroforestry; infrastructure and technology investments; sustainable forest management; open forests; climate resilient reforestation and reconstitution.
Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State for Land-use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett also welcomed the opening of the Afforestation Scheme under the new Forestry Programme.
Applications can now be made for the €308 million scheme which has increased premiums for planting trees of up to €1,142/ha depending on the forest type, as well as extending the premium period from 15 to 20 years for farmers.
The scheme was recently given the green light by the EU Commission under State aid rules.
Other schemes under the Forestry Program have already opened, such as the Forest Roads Scheme.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said that more schemes under the new €1.3 billion program will be rolled out “in the weeks and months ahead”.
This will include the promotion of sustainable forest management, the protection and development of forests, promoting close-to-nature methods, and supporting forest owners in making the most of their forestry assets.
Commenting on the government’s approval of the new Forestry Program at the site of the country’s first forestry school in Avondale, Minister Charlie McConalogue said:
“This is a most welcome development and will allow landowners the opportunity to play their part in creating forests that will benefit all of society for years to come.
“Vital to this success are farmers for it is they who own most of the land on which this increased planting will take place. That is why we are offering them five years of premiums more than non-farmers.
“Farmers can choose to plant on a large or small scale with this program providing a steady income stream for 20 years on farms,” he said.
Minister of State Pippa Hackett added that the new program and strategy aims to manage forested areas in a manner that is “more sympathetic to nature and communities”.
“There are higher broadleaf requirements, greater setback distances and greater utilization of continuous cover management.
“This is also why the program contains 12 forest types for which we will pay the costs of establishment and yearly premiums which in some cases are over €1,000 per hectare per year for up to 20 years.
“The program is underpinned by a government commitment of €1.3 billion, making it the best-funded Forestry Program in the history of the State,” she said.
As part of the forestry implementation plan, the government will establish a Timber Construction Steering Group in the coming weeks.
This group will work to address the importance of increasing the use of timber in construction.