Written answers

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Forestry Sector

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

233. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps that are being taken to address the issues in his Department in dealing with forestry applications (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59409/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Both I and Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the sector, take the forestry licensing issue extremely seriously and it is a top priority in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Significant time and resources continue to be devoted to dealing with the backlog and this is beginning to have the desired effect. I am hopeful that we will reach our target of 4,000 licences this year, having now issued 3,603 licences to 26thNovember. This is a 50% improvement on last year albeit last year was a low output year.

We have issued on average 117 licences per week in the last 12 weeks (to 26thNovember). This means that licences are issuing at nearly double the rate of applications received during this period and every week means a net reduction in the number of licences on hand. 

While we are moving in the right direction, it is acknowledged that we must sustain and increase this momentum to address the backlog of licences on hand.  As regards felling licences, we have issued just over 1,200 private felling licences.  In terms of roads, to date (26thNovember), the Department has issued 590 forest road licences for 238km of roads. This is the largest amount by length issued in the last five years and exceeds our target of 125km for the year as set down in the Climate Action Plan.  

Timber supply is 72% ahead of last year and 2021 is on track to be a record year for timber licenced. Coillte is almost fully licenced for 2022 and had its contract event recently (17thNovember), where sawmills received half of their Coillte supply of logs for 2022.  The sawmills are also receiving a steady stream of logs from felling licences issued to private landowners.  I will add that Ireland has always both imported and exported timber, which is used for different purposes.  Approximately 75% of the timber produced in Ireland is exported.

It is the case that afforestation licences have not issued at the expected rate, we are addressing that and now have 10 ecologists dedicated to afforestation. We intend to increase this number by reallocating resources and recruiting additional ecologists. 

We are also streamlining our processes in the afforestation area and while this will take time to take effect we should begin to see an increase in the number of afforestation licences issuing.

The Department has placed a contract for the regulatory review with report due by end February, 2022. It will review the existing statutory framework for the licensing of forestry activities in relation to environmental and public participation obligations in order that practical advice can be provided to the Department on how to work more efficiently within the existing legal framework.  

I would like to reiterate my commitment and that of Minister of State Pippa Hackett to ensuring that that we maintain and improve on our licence delivery for the benefit of the sector and society as a whole.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.