Following today’s (Tuesday) meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Tipperary Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne has warned that Departmental failure of the forestry sector will have ramifications in the decades to come – for private operators and for our climate agenda.
“Teachta Browne said:
“At today’s latest meeting on forestry, Department officials confirmed that the 4,500 licence target for this year is likely to be missed, while it also emerged that the 8,000 hectares per year afforestation ambition as set out in the Climate Action Plan is still well out of reach.
“This is a total indictment of failure by the Department of Agriculture to reform the manner in which the forestry sector is administered and supported.
“For example, the introduction of a 30-day consultation period for involving the Appropriate Assessment process resulted in an 8-week fall off in the processing of forestry licences.
“This is now being used by the Department as an excuse for missing our licence target by the end of the year and for a dismal number of afforestation licences being issued.
“In my view, this is just the latest justification for a failed forestry policy that is over burdensome, especially for smaller operators.
“I’m aware of a plantation in Co Tipperary which is ravaged by Ash Dieback. The application for the RUS Scheme to assist foresters to deal with infected plantations was submitted to the Forest Service 14 months ago. It has still not been approved and the landowner now has to apply to the local authority for planning permission to replant with conifers.
“This is a terrible burden to put on a forester who is facing years of work and investment being wiped out. That operator is now confronted with another challenge – dealing with the Forestry Service, the Department and the requirements of the local authority.
“But it is typical of a rigid, bureaucratic system that is actually destroying the industry which it should be nurturing.
“Unfortunately, the Department of Agriculture is not acting adequately or fast enough to reform how the forestry service works and administers the sector. Instead, it is destroying the sector and will prevent new entrants from becoming involved.
“It has already been confirmed by that the licenced target for this year is more likely to be 4,000 than the 4,500 targets while afforestation is way off. If the Department continues with this mismanagement of the sector, targets next year will be missed again.
“Continuing in this way will damage livelihoods. It will hold back our sequestration targets. It will result in the importation of even more timber and increase the possibility of further disease.
“While we have been told that additional resources are being allocated to the processing of afforestation licences, unfortunately, this is too little, and I fear that this is not the last time the range of challenges facing the forestry sector will be under discussion at the Agriculture Committee.”