Written answers

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Forestry Sector

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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654. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he plans to take to deal with ash dieback in trees across the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49223/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The Department has had a reconstitution scheme for Ash Dieback available for a number of years. The existing scheme, the Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme closed to new applications from 12thApril 2018.

At the same time, the Department began a review of the national response to Ash Dieback Disease as it was increasingly evident from experience and the latest scientific advice that eradication of Ash Dieback disease was no longer feasible.

Pending completion of the review, the Department moved away from a mandatory sanitation requirement approach while continuing annual premium payments to affected forest owners. While the main scheme was closed to new applications, Circular 6 of 2018 advised that any applications received after the date of the circular would be brought forward to the new scheme. The Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS) also remained available to plantation owners.

The focus of the review was on the policy approach and associated support schemes, considering the move away from Ash Dieback eradication and bringing ash plantation management into focus. The review included further consideration of damage level evaluation together with inclusion of a broader range of silvicultural and management options. This new approach was circulated for stakeholder consultation in December 2019 and a total of 18 submissions were received in reply.

All submissions were carefully considered, and meetings held with stakeholders to finalise a revised scheme document. The Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS) (Ash Dieback) was announced on the 10th June 2020 and applications could be submitted from the 22nd June 2020.

The objectives of the scheme are to encourage the active management of ash plantations, to promote the vigorous growth of ash through thinning and, where appropriate in young plantations and in cases of high disease infection, to support the removal of the affected ash crop and replacement with alternative species.

The Scheme also aims to build resilience and diversity into plantations and possibly identify tolerant or resistant individuals. The scheme provides a suite of options that will give owners the opportunity to recover the maximum economic value possible from their affected ash plantations.

Last June, the Department carried out an assessment of the response to the Scheme. One question that had arisen is the availability of management options for plantations greater than 25 years of age.

After careful consideration I revised these management options and would like to note, all ash plantations which exceed 7m top height with a medium level of stem infection are now eligible for under-planting and with high level stem infection are now eligible for reconstitution. This change brings sites over 25 year of age into the Scheme.

To date (1stOctober), the Department has received 386 applications for 1,557.85ha, of which decisions have issued on 125 apps for 431.57ha.


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