Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
When Minister of State Hackett and I launched Project Woodland in February of this year, I had two objectives. One to address and review the forestry licensing system and secondly to develop a shared national consensus on forestry and woodland creation long-term in Ireland.
I am pleased to say that the Working Groups who are addressing these key issues are now well established and working very well. The Project Board which oversees their work is very actively engaged also, having had eight meetings already. They will shortly publish an interim report on their work to date regarding the recommendations that have been made to them from Project Woodland.
The review of the licensing process is a top priority and I see it as having two elements. The first involves the process from forestry application to forestry licence, taking account of the Department's operating procedures and IT processes along the way. An independent business systems analyst is currently conducting this review, and has a plan in place to finalise it by end August, at which stage it will be brought to the Project Board for consideration.
The second element of the review is a more high-level review of the regulatory and planning process for forestry licensing in Ireland. I am anxious that this gets underway as soon as possible. The Project Board will advise me on how best to secure the independent person or persons with appropriate legal and environmental expertise to carry it out. It is intended that it include an examination of experiences in other Member States in licensing forestry activities and how they comply with EU legislation and from this what lessons we can bring to our licensing systems. Given the importance of this analysis, we will have to accord enough time for this review to be comprehensive in nature.
These two comprehensive reviews of the end-to-end licensing process and the regulatory framework will, I believe, lead to lasting improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the system and will help us better meet the needs of landowners, forest owners, timber producers and all involved in forestry in Ireland.
19. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the recommendations contained within the report of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on Issues impacting the Forestry Sector in Ireland relating to ash dieback that he will implement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38176/21]
The relevant recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee relating to ash dieback disease are Recommendations 6 and 7. While I have already responded to the Committee, it is my intention to respond in more detail to the Committee on these recommendations and to implement those aspects identified as relevant and critical to the overall national ash dieback policy and support response.
Recommendation 6 of the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s report highlights a number of important areas including research reporting on engagement with the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS) and related financial supports.
Since 2013, the Department has supported a number of important research initiatives including research into spore trapping and field trials and laboratory research in relation to the identification of ash dieback tolerance in the population and breeding of ash dieback tolerant plants.
In relation to engagement by ash plantation owners with the RUS scheme, the Department maintains close and on-going overview of the number of applications received and processed together with the related areas involved. To date, the Department has received over 330 RUS applications for a total of 1,364ha and approved 83 applications for a total of 280ha which demonstrates a healthy interest in the Scheme.
RUS provides financial support for the to the removal of the affected ash crop and replacement with alternative species. However, it is not a compensatory tool to provide payment for financial loss incurred due to the impact of ash dieback disease.
The Department is in the process of preparing a detailed report on Ash Dieback in Ireland. This report will include an account of the history, first findings and possible origins and spread of ash die back disease in Ireland. It will include an account of the legislative requirements and controls as well as the trade in ash and describe the Department’s policy and support scheme response as the disease has progressed and knowledge and understanding have been gained and lessons learnt.