MEP Calls for Swift Action on Forestry Strategy to Hit Targets

"MEP Billy Kelleher Urges Immediate Review of Forestry Strategy to Meet Planting Targets"

Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher has raised a red flag, calling for an immediate reassessment of the Forestry Strategy to ensure Ireland stays on track to meet its annual planting target of 8000 ha. The Fianna Fáil representative’s plea comes following a crucial meeting with key stakeholders and experts at a special gathering hosted by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) in Cratloe Forest Park, Co. Clare on Thursday, April 18. The event, spearheaded by IFA Forestry Committee chair Jason Fleming, delved into the pressing challenges currently confronting the forestry sector.

Reflecting on the discussions that transpired, MEP Kelleher voiced the collective concerns of foresters regarding their sustainability in the long term. He underscored the immediate anxieties plaguing foresters and farmers, particularly in light of the looming threat posed by the spruce bark beetle on Irish commercial forestry and the persistent issues surrounding ash dieback. Kelleher expressed deep apprehension over the prevailing lack of confidence in the nation’s ability to meet its forestry targets, citing alarmingly low levels of recent planting activity. Without a shift in approach, the MEP cast doubt on the feasibility of achieving national objectives.

“The current composition of tree types does not present an appealing commercial prospect. This aspect warrants scrutiny if we are to make headway towards our targets,” Kelleher emphasized. The Forest Strategy, outlining plans up to 2030, was unveiled by the government last September with a focus on enhancing the diversity and scope of Irish forests to bolster biodiversity, sustainability, and climate change mitigation efforts. To date this year, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has granted 145 afforestation licenses covering 1,076ha.

In the wake of bilateral engagements organized by Kelleher, a prevailing sentiment emerged among farmers and foresters that a transformative review is imperative to navigate the challenges ahead. “There is a palpable sense that numerous obstacles stand in the way, fostering a climate of uncertainty within the sector,” Kelleher remarked. Addressing the pressing issue of ash dieback, the MEP stressed the urgency of establishing a compensation scheme. Kelleher underscored the potential of forestry to offer alternative revenue streams for farmers and landowners, while also aiding in meeting climate targets. However, he stressed the critical need for a pragmatic and adaptable strategy moving forward.

“It is high time for a comprehensive review,” Kelleher urged, encapsulating the collective call for a strategic recalibration to ensure the sustainability and vitality of the forestry sector in Ireland.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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