The bureaucracy at the centre of the crises facing the forestry sector must be dismantled and a new, simplified and efficient system for dealing with the issuing of forestry licences developed, according to Fianna Fáil T.D. Jackie Cahill. Cahill has highlighted the strategic position Irish forests must play in the county’s battle against climate change and the race to reduce carbon emissions.
Cahill has pointed to major problems in the issuing of forestry licences that continue to go unresolved, resulting in the failure to meet afforestation targets and further reducing the country’s ability to sequester carbon for decades to come. These comments follow the publishing of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that stated that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying.
Commenting on this today, the Fianna Fáil T.D. for Tipperary said: “The bureaucracy that’s crippling our forestry sector has to be dismantled. Why, when you want to change land use for forestry you have to get a licence, is beyond me. When you are changing from dairy to beef or beef to tillage you do not have to get a licence, but you do have to when you are changing land use to forestry. That is just wrong.
“If a landowner decides to plant their land, they have to get a licence for afforestation and then a separate one for thinning, a separate one for roads, and a separate one clear felling. This bureaucracy has to stop. It’s strangling the sector at every turn and routinely putting roadblocks in the way of progress.
“We have set targets for levels of afforestation in Programmes for Government over the last number of years, and in the last three years alone, the failures to meet targets have resulted in a loss of 75million tons of carbon being sequestered during the lifetime of the plantations that should have been planted. The bureaucracy has a lot to answer for here.
“We have 220,000 hectares of unenclosed land that is not designated for panting here in Ireland. We even have blanket bans on those lands for planting. That’s ridiculous.”
Cahill continued to state that: “There is clear scientific evidence to show that different stages of afforestation can enhance the development of habitats for different species in designated areas.
“We need to immediately look at the premium payments for forestry to attract farmers back to this sector. If forestry is going to play the strategic role that it must in our battle against climate change and the reduction of emissions, the bureaucracy that is destroying this sector has to be dismantled immediately.
“The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and the Marine, which I chair, have had numerous meetings on the forestry sector since last September. We have issued recommendations to the minister with responsibility for this area but unfortunately the forestry sector is still immersed in the mire of bureaucracy.”
Concluding, Deputy Cahill said: “Too much time has now passed. We need emergency legislation to overhaul the bureaucratic system that is failing to function, destroying a viable forestry sector and resulting is a complete failure to meet our emissions reduction targets for decades to come.”