Hackett’s Forest Facts: Annual Report Reveals Surprising Stats!

Minister Hackett Urges Accelerated Afforestation in Latest Forest Statistics Report

Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, has recently released the 2024 Annual Forest Statistics Report, emphasizing the pressing need to accelerate afforestation efforts in Ireland. The report, compiled by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, serves as a comprehensive overview of the country’s forest sector and industry. It aims to offer stakeholders a reliable and transparent source of information regarding the developments within the forestry sector over the past year.

In her statement on the report, Minister Hackett underscored the significance of this annual publication for researchers, students, and practitioners seeking to grasp the forest sector’s role in the national economic landscape. She acknowledged the imperative for a substantial increase in the pace of expanding Ireland’s forest estate. Notably, the delayed state aid approval process for the new Forestry Programme impacted afforestation figures in the previous year, with afforestation under the new program commencing only in September 2023.

Since then, the forest service has made over 4,000 hectares available for planting, a move expected to drive an uptick in afforestation numbers for 2024. Minister Hackett highlighted the voluntary nature of afforestation as a land use choice, noting the competitive land market. However, she pointed out that the enhanced funding under the new program, coupled with streamlining the licensing process, renders afforestation increasingly attractive for farmers and landowners.

According to the report, the total expenditure on forest activities in 2023, including maintenance grants, infrastructure grants for forest roads, premium payments, and afforestation supports, amounted to €73.8 million. Of note, the proportion of broadleaves in new forests established in 2023 stood at 54%, surpassing conifer tree planting for the first time. The year also witnessed the construction of 78 kilometers of private forest roads, an 8-kilometer increase from 2022.

Key statistics from the 2023 report include the notable afforestation in Co. Roscommon with 189 hectares, followed by Co. Galway with 139 hectares. The percentage of land afforested by farmers in 2023 rose to 47%, up from 23% in the previous year. Moreover, individuals aged 60 years or older accounted for 57% of the afforested area in 2023, with 61% of premium payment recipients falling within the same age group.

In terms of tree species, the report highlighted the sowing of 3.5 tonnes of pedunculate oak seed in forestry nurseries in 2023, translating to over 3.4 million plants. Other prominent broadleaf species included downy birch and common alder, while key conifer species comprised Sitka spruce, Scots pine, and lodgepole pine. Felling licenses were issued for the thinning of 8,144 hectares and the clearfelling of 24,444 hectares during 2023.

Notably, approximately half of Ireland’s forest estate is certified by international non-governmental organizations to promote sustainable forest management practices. The majority of this certified area is within the public forest estate, with 33,064 hectares of private forests currently holding certification. In 2022, Ireland’s forests sequestered 2.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, marking a 0.34 million-tonne increase compared to the previous year.

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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