Thrilled Tree Owners: Ash Dieback Scheme Receives Rave Reviews from Majority, Says Hackett

Minister Pippa Hackett Commends Success of Ash Dieback Reconstitution Scheme as Sinn Féin Raises Concerns

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) with responsibility for forestry, Pippa Hackett, has expressed that the “vast majority” of ash dieback owners are content with the reconstitution scheme currently in place. This statement comes following Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture, Deputy Claire Kerrane, raising concerns about ash dieback during an Oireachtas committee meeting after hearing from the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners Ltd. (LTWO). LTWO chair Simon White highlighted to the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, of which Deputy Kerrane is a member, that the scheme was formulated without consultation with stakeholders.

In response to Deputy Kerrane’s inquiries, Minister Hackett emphasized that there has been extensive engagement, not solely through the independent review group but also with various stakeholders. Minister Hackett acknowledged that while there may be some disgruntled individuals, the overwhelming majority of ash dieback owners are satisfied with the reconstitution scheme. She noted that many had doubted the possibility of any support scheme, making the acceptance and engagement with the current scheme widespread.

Since the commencement of the Forestry Programme in September 2023, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has approved over 2,300ha under the Reconstitution of Ash Dieback Scheme. Deputy Kerrane highlighted that the forestry sector felt excluded from the additional changes made to the scheme, including the Climate Action Performance Payment (CAPP), following the independent review of ash dieback. Under the announced €79.5 million support package, the CAPP, valued at €5,000/ha, will be provided to ash forest owners who clear affected ash and replant through one of DAFM’s reconstitution schemes.

The current Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme 2023-2027, established last year, succeeds the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS) (Ash Dieback) 2020, and the Interim Reconstitution Scheme for Ash Dieback 2023. However, ash planted as part of additional broadleaved planting in conifer plots is not eligible for the €5,000/ha CAPP payment, potentially excluding a significant number of individuals who had planted ash under state aid schemes. LTWO chair Simon White expressed concern about this exclusion, noting that many had planted ash as a component of a conifer plantation for biodiversity purposes and are now deemed ineligible for the amended RUS scheme.

Minister Hackett maintained that she consistently encouraged individuals to apply for the scheme to benefit from the CAPP. She clarified that there have been no changes to the scheme itself, but rather the addition of the substantial €80 million package for the CAPP. The issue of site clearance was a focal point in the independent review, with Minister Hackett explaining that after consultation with stakeholders and landowners, the decision was made to double the clearance rate to €2,000/ha, which was deemed a fair price to pay.

While acknowledging that there may be cases where individuals have to pay more, Minister Hackett stressed that this grant aims to support clearance efforts, and in some instances, the actual cost may not reach €2,000/ha. White highlighted that the clearance grant under the scheme does not account for the potentially higher actual costs, ranging from €2,000/ha for young sites to over €7,000/ha for older plantations requiring specialized machinery.

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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