The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine is set to convene in Brussels on Wednesday, September 6, and Thursday, September 7, to address key issues concerning forestry, nature restoration, and Ireland’s nitrates derogation. Chairperson Jackie Cahill has identified the classification of land available for afforestation as a major concern, stating that too much land suitable for forestry is being excluded. With the growing competition for land, Cahill questions whether forestry can effectively compete. He argues that planting trees on designated land is the more sensible approach to combating climate change.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has released figures for the week ending September 1, revealing that 61 applications for afforestation licenses have been received this year, with only 12 licenses issued thus far. The total area planted in August was 207 hectares, bringing the year’s afforestation total to 1,227 hectares. In comparison, the figure for the same period last year was 1,717 hectares. Additionally, 1,094 private felling licenses and 991 Coillte felling licenses have been approved this year, along with 127 forestry road licenses. Deputy Cahill expressed concern that afforestation levels are projected to remain low, making it unlikely that targets will be met. The meeting in Brussels will also address other EU forestry policies.
In response to the latest figures, the Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) expressed disappointment, stating that their pleas for action have gone unanswered, resulting in no improvement for the struggling forestry sector. SEEFA called on the minister to publish a licensing plan for autumn 2023 and the full year of 2024, emphasizing that the excuse of a disorganized forestry program is no longer acceptable.