The second meeting of the newly formed Forestry Policy Group was hosted this afternoon by the Minister of State with responsibility for forestry in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett.
The meeting was again attended by a wide range of stakeholders including nursery, sawmill and contractor representation, as well as environmental NGOs, representatives from community, farmers and growers and relevant state bodies.
The Minister commented, “This was another good constructive meeting following on quickly from the group’s first meeting just last month. As I said at that first meeting I wanted to build momentum and ensure that this is a dynamic stakeholder-forum to help us tackle these big issues in forestry. The stakeholders today re-confirmed their commitment to work together and contribute positively and pro-actively with fresh ideas to help solving the difficulties the forestry sector is currently facing and towards developing a new forest strategy.”
As part of today’s agenda there was a detailed presentation by the Minister’s Department on the forestry licensing process and the changes which have been made over the last year. The Minister acknowledged the difficulties for the sector resulting from licencing delays and noted the sustained improvement in licencing output since the introduction of the new Forestry legislation in mid-October which she expects to continue into 2021. The Minister also acknowledged that there is still some way to go to fully resolve the issues and that her Department is engaging in further recruitment in early 2021 to help further improve licencing output.
The group also received an update from Jo O’Hara, who has been commissioned by the Minister to advise on recommendations to implement the Mackinnon Report. Ms O’Hara advised that she has met many of the forestry stakeholders during recent weeks and plans to meet with others in the coming weeks to get an overview on the different perspectives and issues faced by the different groups involved in forestry. Her report will be delivered to the Group by end-February.
The Minister also emphasised the need for ongoing awareness and promotion of the multi-functional benefits of trees and woodlands. This was discussed after presentations from Teagasc about their promotion plan for 2021 and about the Department’s review of its two-year promotion call which was delivered through a competitive call for stakeholder groups. The Group provided their views on what works in terms of promoting forestry and where the focus should be and these will be taken into account in shaping a new call for promotion proposals in the New Year.
Commenting on this the Minister said, “As we all know, Ireland has one of the lowest levels of forest cover in Europe at 11% as opposed to the European average of about 42%. However, our priorities and objectives for new afforestation have changed over time as we have developed a greater appreciation of the multiple roles that forestry plays. Forestry must continue to deliver for timber production but must also meet our demands for the protection of water quality, biodiversity and climate as well as for communities and social needs. This must be reflected in our approach to promotion and I am delighted to announce today that I will be launching a significant call for proposals in January to make available funds for stakeholders with initiatives in this area”.
Finally the group agreed its schedule for 2021 with a commitment to meet on at least six occasions in recognition of the significant priority work to be undertaken on forestry next year.
Note for Editors:
The membership of the Forestry Policy Group is as follows:
|Teagasc||Nuala Ni Fhlatharta|
|Forest Industries Ireland||Mark McAuley|
|Glenmore Forestry Services||Peter O’Brien|
|Western Forestry Co-operative Society Ltd.||Marina Conway|
|Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland||Michael Moroney|
|Association of Irish Forestry Consultants||Dermot Houlihan|
|Agricultural Consultants Association||Tom Canning|
|Irish Timber Growers Association||Donal Whelan|
|Pro Silva||Paddy Purser|
|None So Hardy Nurseries||Teige Ryan|
|Environmental Pillar||Andrew St Ledger|
|An Taisce||Elaine McGoff|
|Irish Wildlfe Trust||Pádraic Fogarty|
|Birdwatch Ireland||Oonagh Duggan|
|Woodlands of Ireland||Joe Gowran|
|Irish Rural Link||Sinéad Dooley|
|COFORD||D. Eugene Hendrick|
The presentations from today’s meetings are available at www.gov.ie/en/collection/e43d8-forestry-policy-group-chaired-by-mos-hackett/
Jo O’Hara was formerly Chief Executive of Scottish Forestry, a Forestry Commissioner and Head of Forestry Commission Scotland and is currently working as a consultant and non-executive Director. She was appointed by Minister Hackett to oversee the finalisation of the Mackinnon Implementation Plan.
The Mackinnon report is published on the Department’s website at: www.gov.ie/en/publication/15368-review-of-the-appeal-process-for-afforestation-in-ireland-mckinnon-2019/