The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has issued three afforestation licences in the first week of 2024, according to the latest Forestry Dashboard for week one of January. These licences pertain to 38 hectares of forestry. However, no forestry was planted during this period. In addition, the department has issued 15 tree felling licences to Coillte and 11 felling licences to private forestry owners, covering a combined area of 307 hectares. Furthermore, seven licences were granted for forestry roads, amounting to a total length of 2 kilometers.
Last month, DAFM published its forestry licencing plan for 2024, which projected that the department would issue 4,200 new licences this year. It also confirmed that the department has the capacity to issue enough licences to meet its annual target of 8,000 hectares of new forests. DAFM estimates that it will receive 1,000 afforestation applications in 2024, which is the required number to meet the set targets.
In 2023, the department issued 88 afforestation licences, a significant decrease compared to over 700 issued in 2022. These licences covered 789 hectares, in contrast to 4,972 hectares in 2022 and 4,246 hectares in 2021. The number of afforestation licence applications received by the department in 2023 was 165, down from approximately 440 in 2022.
Mattie McGrath, the leader of the Rural Independent Group, has criticized the forestry figures for 2023, describing them as a reflection of “ministerial incompetence.” The Tipperary TD stated, “This is a stark testament to the inability of Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State Pippa Hackett to uphold their commitments. It’s a bitter irony that our agriculture ministers hold farmers to stringent emission reduction targets, yet they fall drastically short of their forestry planting targets outlined in the climate action plan.”