Written answers

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Forestry Sector

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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461. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the expected percentage of felling licence applicants screened in for appropriate assessment which will no longer require Natura impact statements following the issuing of circular 08/2021; the expected improvements in licensing output; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38883/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The Department has recently reviewed the systems for the preparation of Appropriate Assessment Screening Determinations, Appropriate Assessment Reports and Appropriate Assessment Determinations. Improvements have been made to the system to optimise the time of the ecologists to concentrate on the ecology aspects of each application. These improvements are outlined in Circular 8 of 2021.

Circular 8 of 2021 advises registered foresters to submit NISs when sought by the Department. In most cases, the Appropriate Assessment will be done by the Department without an applicant's NIS but with site information, project information and a detailed harvest plan. In some cases, a greater level of ecology input will be required from the applicant and this will be decided on a case by case basis by the Department's ecologists.

Using the system improvements and additional staff resources, June was the highest month for the issuing of private felling licences in over five years and included 226 private felling licences or an average rate of over 50 private felling licences a week. In total, the Department was issuing an average of 95 licences over the last seven weeks which was a 50% increase on previous weeks this year.

This will not be possible in July and early August because of the introduction of a consultation period of 30 days for cases that are undergoing Appropriate Assessment but output will increase again in September. Continued high output will also depend on receiving good quality harvest plans from applicants and their agents and good quality NIS’s where sought along with Minister- of -State Pippa Hackett who has overall responsibility for the sector. I am committed to continuing to drive improvements in the sector.

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