The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is in the process of developing a scheme that will allow landowners to plant trees on plots under 1ha without requiring an afforestation licence. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has stated that building confidence among landowners in the benefits of forestry is crucial to increasing afforestation rates. He explained that the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry (Miscellaneous provisions) Act 2022 allows for the introduction of regulations to facilitate small-scale planting of native tree areas without the need for an afforestation licence. The objective is to encourage interest in small-scale planting and remove barriers to such initiatives. This exemption will contribute to Ireland’s environmental priorities, particularly in relation to climate change, biodiversity, and water quality.
The exemption for the creation of up to 1ha of native woodland will be made available through the Native Tree Area Scheme, which is currently being developed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The scheme will be finalized after the completion of a Strategic Environmental Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment, subject to the findings of both assessments. Minister McConalogue emphasized that any exemptions granted must comply with environmental law. The scheme will also include eligibility criteria to ensure that all tree planting works are carried out in a legally compliant and sustainable manner.
The Native Tree Area Scheme will be part of the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027, pending approval from the European Commission. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been actively engaging with the commission to secure this approval. The scheme aims to contribute to Ireland’s targets in various environmental priorities, including climate change, biodiversity, and water quality.
Overall, the scheme to exempt landowners from requiring an afforestation licence for plots under 1ha in size is seen as a positive step towards increasing afforestation rates in Ireland. By removing barriers and building confidence among landowners, the government hopes to encourage more small-scale planting initiatives. The Native Tree Area Scheme, once finalized, will play a significant role in the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027, subject to approval from the European Commission. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is actively working towards securing this approval and ensuring that all tree planting works are carried out in a legally compliant and sustainable manner.