89ha of forestry was planted in the first two months of 2023, according to the latest data from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).
This is down by almost 74% in the same period last year when 336ha of trees were planted, according to the department’s Forestry Licensing Dashboard.
In the first week of March, a further 5ha was planted.
The data also shows that afforestation licences have been granted for 86ha; 47ha was issued in January and 39ha in February.
In the first two months of 2022, the department had issued afforestation licences for some 751ha.
The dashboard shows that there has been no new afforestation applications received to date this year, and just four licences have been issued.
There has been eight valid afforestation licence appeals brought to the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC).
Meanwhile, the department issued felling licences for 5,600ha in January and February, compared to 7,365 in the same period in 2022.
So far this month, felling licences have been issued for 508ha. During 2022, licences were granted for felling across 46,027 ha.
To date in 2023, there have been 544 felling licences issued and 153 applications made to the department.
Licences have been issued for 6km of forestry roads and the figures show that 12km of roads have been constructed to date this year.
47 roads applications have been made to the department in 2023, and 18 licences have been issued.
The government is aiming to increase the national forest estate from 11.6%, to 18% by 2050. To reach this target, we will have to create an additional 450,000ha of new forests by 2050.
Currently, the government’s new Forestry Programme 2023-2027 is subject to an ongoing Strategic Environmental Assessment/Appropriate Assessment (SEA/AA) process.
This is seen as a critical step in securing state aid approval for the €1.3 billion programme.
The department has put in place an Interim Afforestation Scheme and an Interim Forest Road Scheme to provide an option of immediate planting and/or roading from January 2023 for those with existing valid approvals.
Responding to a recent parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said that he was “acutely aware” of the urgency with which planting and roading activity must happen.
He said that his department has “worked intensively” with the EU Commission to pursue transitional arrangements for valid Forestry Scheme approvals.
“I assure you that the launch of the Forestry Programme 2023-2027 is a matter of the utmost priority,” the minister said.
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