December 4, 2023
Minister must publish forestry land map to show potential impact of new programme restrictions – Claire Kerrane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on the Minister to publish a composite map to show the areas no longer eligible under the rules of the new Forestry Programme.

The Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has made available a range of maps which show the amount of land which can and cannot be planted as a result of different criteria under the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027.

This criteria includes factors such as peat depth above 30cm, high nature value farmland, and breeding spots for a range of bird species, amongst others.

Concerns have been raised that significant portions of land are now ruled out as a result of the new eligibility criteria, but the Department has yet to provide a composite map which illustrates the extent of land which may be affected.

Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:

“I have requested that the Minister provide a composite map which shows land availability and limitations for planting as a result of rules under the new Forestry Programme.   

“As it stands, we can see a range of layers which demonstrate the different aspects that must be considered for eligibility for afforestation, but not the whole picture.

“I queried this with the Minister and was advised in a recent reply to a Parliamentary Question that his Department do intend to publish a composite map, but it is not available yet.

“I believe it is important that this map is made available as soon as possible.

“While the various criteria under the new Programme does not necessarily rule out land altogether, it is crucial that the Minister recognises the significant cost farmers and landowners may face as a result of having to seek surveys, reports and reviews of whether their land is suitable for planting. Without a doubt, this will put landowners off.

“It is concerning that, while ensuring land is suitable for planting is important, the extent of these new rules may leave vast areas of land un-plantable, or put farmers and landowners off from taking up the new Programme due to the cost of surveying.

“Farmers and forestry owners I have spoken with have raised worries that, where they might undertake a survey of their land, they fear there is a good chance it will be ineligible and that money will have been wasted. Instead, many are just choosing not to take the risk altogether.  

“I would ask the Minister to make a composite map available as soon as possible, to really make clear what areas can and cannot be planted.

“Doing so would provide a more comprehensive picture on the current situation and show where adjustments might be made, to ensure we are making the new Forestry Programme as accessible and attractive as possible.”

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