Forestry Appeals Committee Makes Over 100 Decisions in 2023!

Forestry Appeals Committee Releases 101 Appeal Decisions on Department of Agriculture's Forestry Licences

The Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) had a busy year in 2023, publishing 101 appeal decisions related to 66 licence determinations. As an independent body, the FAC provides a platform for individuals to contest decisions made by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine (DAFM) regarding forestry planting, felling, or road construction licenses. According to the FAC’s 2023 report, a staggering 97% of the committee’s determinations resulted in the setting aside of licence decisions. This data reveals that in 17% of cases, appeals were successful, while in 80% of instances, applications were remitted back to the Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine due to significant errors identified during the review process. These errors ranged from mapping and environmental screening issues to technical inaccuracies like incorrect addresses.

The FAC upheld the decision to grant forestry licences in only 3% of the appeals considered. The report further indicates that the majority (69%) of the resolved appeals were related to afforestation licences, with 20% involving felling licences and 11% concerning forestry roads. Since its inception in 2018, the FAC has witnessed a steady increase in the number of appeals each year until 2020. However, following legislative changes in October 2020, the volume of appeals declined in 2021. The amendments brought about by the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2020 led to the establishment of additional FAC divisions aimed at expediting the appeals process.

In 2023, the FAC’s four divisions heard a total of 104 appeals challenging 74 licences, with two cases necessitating oral hearings. The committee clarified that a single forestry licence could be subject to multiple appeals. Notably, delays in implementing the new Forestry Programme likely impacted the number of licences issued and consequently influenced the appeal numbers in 2023. At the beginning of the year, 100 pending appeals involving 77 licence decisions from previous years were carried over. Throughout 2023, the FAC received 99 appeals against 80 licence decisions, with 56 appeals being invalidated or withdrawn, leaving 43 valid appeals against 41 decisions.

The FAC’s report highlights that the average duration from the hearing of an appeal to the issuance of a decision in 2023 was 55 days. This timeframe varied depending on factors such as the complexity of the grounds of appeal. Looking ahead to 2024, the committee expressed confidence in the expertise of its members, deeming it suitable to handle the increasing volume and complexity of appeals. However, the FAC emphasized the importance of ongoing monitoring to ensure the committee maintains the necessary capacity to address appeals effectively.

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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