December 20, 2023
Forestry licensing plan welcome but action needed on afforestation targets – Claire Kerrane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson, Claire Kerrane TD, has welcomed the newly-published Forestry licensing plan but has stated that action is needed from Government to meet annual afforestation targets.
 
There is an annual afforestation target of 8,000ha, but just 1,649ha of trees have been planted in 2023. In addition, just 85 afforestation licenses have been approved so far this year, which amounts to around 763ha of coverage.  
 
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
 
“It is welcome that Minister Hackett has finally published her Department’s Forestry licensing plan for 2024.
 
“However, it’s important that the plan is implemented and that the Minister takes appropriate action to ensure our annual targets of 8,000ha of afforestation can be met in 2024.
 
“Many farmers and forestry landowners have contacted me in recent months about long waiting periods for approval of their licensing applications, so it is key that the timeframes for turnaround outlined in the plan will be met.
 
“As well as this, while it is positive that the plan sets out expectations of 1,000 afforestation licence applications next year, the reality is that her Department received just 297 applications in 2023 and have approved just 85 afforestation licences so far this year.
 
“These figures are a far cry from 1,000 licences and demonstrates that action must be taken alongside the publication of a licensing plan, including meaningful engagement with the sector, if those ambitious targets are to be met.
 
“Organisations such as SEEFA have refuted the Minister’s reference to the plan being ‘demand-led’, and have expressed concerns about limitations on afforestation as a result of rules under the new Forestry Programme since it was rolled out in September.  
 
“I raised these concerns directly with the Minister in the Dáil just last week, and asked that she address those issues as a matter of priority.
 
“It is crucial that the Minister now works to address concerns around regulatory restrictions, build confidence amongst farmers, landowners and the forestry sector, and ensure that we can meet our targets.”