Cabinet Approves New Forestry Programme 2023-2027
The Cabinet has given its approval for the final version of the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027 during a special meeting held in Co. Wicklow today. The Forest Strategy, which covers the period up to 2030, was also published on the same day. The aim of the programme is to enhance the diversity and range of Irish forests, with the objective of contributing to biodiversity, sustainability, and climate change goals. The government has stated that the implementation plan, which includes the Forestry Programme, will help achieve the ambitions set out in the Forest Strategy. The plan will focus on various aspects such as forest creation, agroforestry, infrastructure and technology investments, sustainable forest management, open forests, climate resilient reforestation, and reconstitution.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and Minister of State for Land-use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, have also expressed their support for the opening of the Afforestation Scheme under the new Forestry Programme. Applications are now being accepted for the €308 million scheme, which offers increased premiums for planting trees, reaching up to €1,142/ha depending on the forest type. Additionally, the premium period for farmers has been extended from 15 to 20 years. The scheme has received approval from the EU Commission under State aid rules.
Other schemes under the Forestry Programme have already been launched, including the Forest Roads Scheme. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has stated that more schemes from the €1.3 billion programme will be introduced in the coming weeks and months. These schemes will focus on promoting sustainable forest management, protecting and developing forests, advocating close-to-nature methods, and supporting forest owners in maximizing the potential of their forestry assets.
Minister Charlie McConalogue, speaking at the site of the country’s first forestry school in Avondale, expressed his satisfaction with the government’s approval of the new Forestry Programme. He emphasized the importance of landowners in creating forests that will benefit society in the long run. He also highlighted the role of farmers, who own a significant portion of the land where the increased planting will occur. To incentivize farmers, the programme offers them five years of premiums more than non-farmers. McConalogue emphasized that farmers have the option to engage in large or small-scale planting, with the programme providing a steady income stream for 20 years on farms.
Minister of State Pippa Hackett added that the new programme and strategy aim to manage forested areas in a manner that is more considerate of nature and communities. The programme includes higher broadleaf requirements, greater setback distances, and increased utilization of continuous cover management. Hackett highlighted that the programme covers 12 forest types for which the costs of establishment and yearly premiums will be covered, with some cases reaching over €1,000 per hectare per year for up to 20 years. She also noted that the programme is backed by a government commitment of €1.3 billion, making it the best-funded Forestry Programme in the history of the State.
As part of the forestry implementation plan, the government will establish a Timber Construction Steering Group in the coming weeks. This group will work towards promoting the use of timber in construction, recognizing its importance in sustainable building practices.
Overall, the approval of the new Forestry Programme and the publication of the Forest Strategy mark significant steps towards enhancing Ireland’s forests, contributing to biodiversity, sustainability, and climate change goals. The programme’s focus on incentivizing farmers and supporting forest owners, as well as its substantial funding commitment, demonstrate the government’s commitment to the forestry sector and its potential for long-term benefits to society and the environment.