The Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) has raised concerns over the low rate of new forestry planting in the country. According to SEEFA, less than 1,500 hectares of new forestry are expected to be planted this year. This statement comes as new data from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) reveals that only 12 additional afforestation licences were granted in the third week of January.
The DAFM’s forestry dashboard shows that as of January 19, a total of 28 afforestation licences have been issued, covering an area of 221 hectares. Additionally, 17 afforestation applications have been submitted to the department. However, the data also indicates that only 18 hectares of forestry have been planted so far this year. It is important to note that the figures for afforestation planted in 2024 reflect only those that have been paid at the first grant stage this year.
In its forestry licencing plan for 2024, published last month, the DAFM projected that it would issue 4,200 new licences this year. The department assured that it has the capacity to meet its annual target of 8,000 hectares of new forests. Furthermore, the DAFM estimated that it would receive 1,000 afforestation applications in 2024, which is the number required to meet the targets set.
The latest figures also reveal that up to January 19, the DAFM has issued 76 private felling licences and 50 Coillte felling licences. Private forestry owners have submitted 31 felling applications, while none have been received from Coillte, the state-owned forestry company. Additionally, 25 applications have been made for forestry roads, with the department granting 45 licences for such purposes in the first three weeks of 2024. Overall, the DAFM has issued 199 forestry licences and received applications for 73 licences.
It is worth noting that no licences involving input from ecologists have been issued in January, according to the dashboard. The dashboard also outlines a target of approximately 220 such licences to be issued each month (excluding Coillte felling licences).
These figures raise concerns about the slow pace of afforestation and forestry-related activities in Ireland. The low number of afforestation licences granted so far indicates a potential shortfall in meeting the annual target for new forests. This could have significant social, economic, and environmental implications for the country.
SEEFA has called for increased efforts to promote afforestation and streamline the licencing process. They argue that a more efficient and transparent system would encourage landowners to engage in afforestation activities and contribute to the growth of Ireland’s forestry sector. Additionally, environmental groups have stressed the importance of ensuring that forestry practices align with sustainable and biodiversity-friendly principles.
The government and relevant authorities should take these concerns seriously and work towards addressing the issues highlighted. It is crucial to strike a balance between promoting afforestation for economic and environmental benefits while ensuring responsible and sustainable forestry practices.