Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Forestry Sector

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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195. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the 21 Mackinnon report recommendations issued in 2019; and the number that have been implemented. [16998/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Implementation of the Mackinnon report is well under way through Project Woodland, which was established a year ago to improve the licensing system and deal with the backlog, and to drive forward the planting of trees under a shared vision for forestry in Ireland. Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the sector, tells me she that significant progress has been made.

All recommendations are actively in progress with two definitively completed. The introduction of fees for submitting applications, making submissions and lodging appeals was facilitated by the Forestry (Licence Application and Submission Fees) Regulations 2020 (S.I. No. 417/2020) and the Forestry Appeals Committee Regulations (S.I. No. 418/2020).

Furthermore, the recruitment of additional inspectors and environmental specialists was acted upon and the upturn in output in 2021, along with our ambitions for increasing licence output in 2022, rests on these additional resources.

I will take this opportunity to summarise progress on specific items.

Significantly, an end-to-end review of the licensing process has been completed and recommendations arising from that review have moved to the implementation stage. The draft regulatory review of the existing statutory framework for the licensing of forestry activities was presented to the Project Board recently and it is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

A pre-application discussion pilot for afforestation applications is in place since January and we are currently seeking quotes for a training needs analysis focussed on the licensing system.

The forestry licensing plan for 2022 details a range of forestry priorities for 2022, the delivery of which will reduce the backlog. The consultation on the new Forestry Strategy is underway, with a public attitudes survey and a community engagement survey already completed while bilateral engagement with key stakeholders is well under way and an online public consultation opened on 16th March. A deliberative dialogue is planned for May.

I would like to acknowledge the commitment of the stakeholders who have actively engaged in the Project Woodland working groups, under the guidance of independent and extremely competent chairs, and with the support of the Project Board. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts and commitment of my Department who have facilitated an open and transparent assessment of the licensing process, and provided support and information to all the Working Groups and are implementing and will continue to implement the outcomes from the Mackinnon Report.


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