The Irish Timber Growers’ Association (ITGA) has called for the establishment of nationally coordinated forest advisory services to support farmers and landowners in navigating tree planting schemes under the upcoming forestry programme. In response to the Climate Change Advisory Council’s (CCAC) Annual Review 2023, the ITGA emphasized the importance of planting trees and managing existing forests in achieving national climate change targets. The association proposed that the national forest advisory service should leverage the expertise and infrastructure of the private forestry sector, with adequate funding to promote and drive the new forestry programme. While acknowledging the Forestry Knowledge Transfer Scheme as a positive initiative, the ITGA urged the development of additional measures to support on-the-ground efforts and collaboration with Teagasc in encouraging uptake of forest creation and support schemes.
The ITGA supported the CCAC’s call for the government to actively support income diversification opportunities for farmers. The association also highlighted the CCAC’s statement that afforestation allows for a larger number of livestock to be maintained on the land while meeting the national carbon neutrality objective. Donal Whelan of the ITGA emphasized the potential benefits for both the farming community and climate change mitigation, where farmers are adequately funded to plant trees and receive compensation for the public goods they provide. These public goods include carbon sequestration, timber production for building timber-framed homes, and a range of forest ecosystem services.
The ITGA further emphasized the importance of active management of existing woodlands in addition to establishing new forests. The association called for ongoing support for biodiversity and ecosystem services in the current forest area, achieved through funding supports and streamlined administration for securing felling licenses for standard forest management activities, such as thinning operations.
Overall, the ITGA’s call for nationally coordinated forest advisory services aligns with the need for effective support and guidance for farmers and landowners in navigating tree planting schemes and managing existing forests. By leveraging the expertise and infrastructure of the private forestry sector, with adequate funding and reduced administrative burden, the ITGA aims to promote and drive the new forestry programme while ensuring the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Ireland’s forests.