Opening of Native Tree Area Scheme Announced Under New Forestry Programme 2023-2027
The Native Tree Area Scheme (NTAS) under Ireland’s new Forestry Programme 2023-2027 has been officially launched today by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Senator Pippa Hackett. This scheme allows farmers to plant up to 1ha of native woodland without a license, or up to 2ha if they have a suitable watercourse along which to plant a riparian small-scale native woodland. The scheme offers grant and annual premium payments over a ten-year period, with total payments of €22,060/ha for small native forests and €22,840/ha for native forests for water protection.
A scheme eligibility map has been prepared to identify the approximately 3.1 million hectares of land that will be eligible to join the scheme. Not all agricultural land is deemed suitable for native forest establishment or due to the presence of environmental sensitivities. Areas that are not eligible under the scheme include Natura 2000 Sites, Top 8 Freshwater Pearl Mussel Catchments, National Heritage Areas (NHA) and proposed NHAs, Curlew breeding buffer, and peatland. Those interested in the scheme but find their land ineligible for planting without a license are encouraged to contact Teagasc or their registered forester for alternative options.
The Native Tree Area Scheme allows for the creation of up to 2ha per farm holding throughout the duration of the scheme. Both farmers and non-farmers can avail of scheme supports. The scheme includes a list of acceptable tree species, such as Alder, Strawberry tree, Silver birch, Downy birch, Hazel, Holly, Crab apple, Scots pine, Black poplar, Aspen, Wild cherry, Bird cherry, Sessile oak, Pedunculate oak, Goat willow, Bay willow, English whitebeam, Whitebeam, Rowan, and Irish whitebeam. The approval process for the scheme has been designed to be straightforward, allowing for new native forests to be planted before the end of 2023.
To ensure the success of these native forests, it is crucial that all existing fences and boundaries meet the required standards to protect the emerging forest. Sites must also be protected from domestic stock and grazing animals, including deer and hares. The fencing requirements for this scheme are the same as those applied to the Afforestation Scheme, with the exception that deer fencing will not be eligible for grant aid.
Grants will be paid in two instalments, with the first instalment available immediately after planting. The second instalment can be claimed at least 4 years after planting has been completed. Forestry premiums will only be payable for new forests that qualify for a Native Tree Area grant from the DAFM, and premiums will be payable for a maximum period of 10 years. There is no differentiation between farmers and non-farmers for eligibility and payment of grants and premiums.
The DAFM emphasizes the importance of involving registered foresters to ensure that the eligibility criteria and scheme terms and conditions are followed. The successful establishment of these native forests requires the expertise of registered foresters to ensure that the forests are correctly sited and managed to the free-growing stage.
All the necessary details, including the terms and conditions, are available on the DAFM website under the ‘forestry grants and schemes’ section. This scheme presents a significant opportunity for farmers and non-farmers alike to contribute to the preservation and expansion of native woodlands in Ireland.