Woodland owners in Ireland are concerned that an independent review of supports for owners impacted by ash dieback will be ignored and left to gather dust on a shelf. The Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners (LTWO) have expressed their belief that the general public will not accept this outcome. The LTWO will attend a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to give their response to the independent review. In their submission to the committee, the LTWO welcomed the publication of the review and commended Minister of State for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett for commissioning it. However, they also highlighted the lack of action taken on a policy level following a review of the forestry sector by the joint Oireachtas agriculture committee in March 2021. The LTWO expressed concern that the recommendations in the current review could suffer the same fate. They emphasized that the review will only be beneficial if its recommendations are fully implemented.
The LTWO expressed disappointment that, in the five weeks since the report was received by Minister Hackett, groups representing ash dieback-affected forestry owners have not been approached to set up the taskforce recommended in the review. The group claimed that there is a lack of urgency in implementing the report’s recommendations and addressing the emergency situation. They criticized the call for ash plantation owners to sign up to the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS), which the reviewers deemed unfit for purpose. The LTWO stated that the Forest Service, which advises Minister Hackett, appears reluctant to accept that the RUS is ineffective. They called for a better solution to be found and expressed a willingness to assist in finding it.
According to the LTWO, the most significant finding in the review is that there is a case for state aid for losses in forestry due to ash dieback, but this clashes with EU policies. However, the review recommends innovative ways to compensate owners for these losses. The LTWO emphasized that the future of Irish forestry depends on the full implementation of the review’s recommendations as a priority. They called for a straightforward disaster-type response and stated that the Forestry Programme will not succeed until the issue of ash dieback is resolved. The group highlighted that there are more lucrative options for land utilization in the current land market that do not involve the permanent use of land and the unreasonable responsibility of dealing with the risk of diseased afforestation. They urged the Forest Service directors to take note of this.
In conclusion, the LTWO’s submission to the joint committee expressed concerns about the lack of action taken on previous reviews and the potential for the current review to be ignored. They emphasized the need for urgent implementation of the recommendations and called for a better solution to compensate owners for their losses. The group highlighted the importance of addressing the issue of ash dieback for the future of Irish forestry and urged the Forest Service directors to consider alternative approaches.