Senator Pippa Hackett, Minister with responsibility for forestry today received the second interim report on the implementation of Project Woodland. The report is prepared by the Project Board overseeing the implementation of the Project which was established to reform the regulation and vision for forestry in Ireland.
The Minister commented “Project Woodland is absolutely essential if we’re to reform the design and delivery of woodland creation in Ireland. This has really been brought into focus this week with the ongoing of COP26 negotiations and the upcoming delivery of the Climate Action Plan. We need land-based climate and biodiversity solutions and woodland creation must be central to this. I note some real progress has been made since the last interim report in July not least the significant improvement in licencing output since then. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued an average of 118 new licences each week since end-August which is very welcome. This year will see the highest ever volume of timber licenced for harvest. I am equally aware though that the progress is not equal and that an urgent uplift in afforestation licencing is needed. My Department will soon be producing its projections for licencing for the first half of 2022.
The interim report also confirmed that that my Department is proceeding with a full regulatory review of forestry licencing to be conducted by external consultants, Philip Lee which will be submitted in February 2022. There has also been significant progress on both the proposals on pre-application discussion and the planning grant. The work on the next Vision and Strategy for Irish forestry is also making good progress with the community-based outreach through National Rural Network already underway and a national attitudinal survey on forestry abut to commence.
The Minister concluded that “I want to acknowledge the efforts and contribution of all stakeholders in Project Woodland as well as that of the staff of my Department and of course the members of the Project Board. I also understand the frustrations of those who are currently awaiting licences. This is not easy work but we are making real progress and will continue to do so. It’s important that the Interim Report formally acknowledges this as it has done and also highlights the priorities for future work. It is only through this collaborative approach from all concerned will we reform this area and make woodland creation the priority policy and driver of our future environmental and economic needs”.