Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, has launched the Native Woodland Conservation (NWC) Scheme, a new initiative aimed at restoring and conserving existing native woodlands in Ireland. Developed in collaboration with Woodlands of Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the Heritage Council, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), and other stakeholders, the NWC Scheme seeks to address the “under-management” of native woodlands by providing support to woodland owners through restoration measures.
Under the scheme, an ecologist and a registered forester will assess each woodland to determine the appropriate restoration measures needed. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has announced that forest owners who previously applied for the native woodland scheme under the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 and have yet to receive approval, as well as those with existing approvals who have not begun work, will be contacted in the coming week to discuss their options.
Minister Hackett has announced the grant rates for the new scheme, which include €6,000 per hectare for private high forest and €3,000 per hectare for public forest. In addition, there will be an ecosystems services premium payment of €500 per hectare per year for a period of seven years. These financial incentives aim to encourage woodland owners to actively participate in the conservation projects for native woodlands.
Conservation efforts for native woodlands typically involve the removal of non-native trees, the elimination of invasive exotics, and the protection of woodlands against deer or livestock. By implementing these measures, the NWC Scheme aims to protect and enhance biodiversity, soil and water quality, and contribute to climate change mitigation.
Minister Hackett emphasized the importance of native woodlands, stating, “Ireland’s native woodlands are a precious resource that provide a wide range of ecosystem functions and services. They play a crucial role in protecting our biodiversity, soil and water quality, and help us address the challenges posed by climate change.”
The NWC Scheme promotes “close to nature” forest management practices that benefit nature, water quality, and climate. It also recognizes the cultural significance of traditional forms of woodland management and the provision of local amenities. Minister Hackett highlighted the role of the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027 in supporting forest owners to deliver these multiple benefits.
The launch of the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme marks an important step towards the restoration and conservation of Ireland’s native woodlands. By providing financial support and guidance to woodland owners, the scheme aims to ensure the long-term sustainability and protection of these valuable ecosystems. As Ireland continues to prioritize environmental conservation and biodiversity, initiatives like the NWC Scheme play a vital role in preserving and enhancing the natural heritage of the country.