Today, together with my colleague Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D. we announced ‘Project Woodland’, an initiative to tackle issues in forestry in Ireland and drive forward the planting of trees. As Ministers we accepted a report on reforming the Irish Forestry Licensing system, and committed to its immediate implementation.
We are focussed on delivering solutions for the sector. As Minister with responsibility for the forestry sector, I will lead the implementation of Project Woodland and I am confident that it can be a success.
I acknowledged the work of Jo O’Hara, the former Chief Executive of Scottish Forestry, who prepared the report on the implementation of the Mackinnon report on Forestry Licences. Jo O’Hara has confirmed my own belief that while of course the issues with licencing – of afforestation, roads, and felling – must be addressed, bigger questions about forestry also need to be considered.
Timber production is important, but trees are about more than timber. They are also about beauty, biodiversity, the environment, carbon capture, community enjoyment and enterprise, and social good, and it’s time to find the space to say that, and to value that. That is why I am delighted today to announce the immediate setting up of Project Woodland.
Project Woodland is being established by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under my leadership. It involves four different workstreams working to her through a Project Manager and Project Board. The project Board will be chaired by the Secretary General, Brendan Gleeson.
The workstreams will work concurrently, focussing on different areas. The first one will concentrate on the backlog, the second on a vision for forestry, the third on devising a fit for purpose organisational structure, and the fourth on streamlining the licensing process for the future.
You can access more information on gov.ie
UPDATE: 10th March 2021
The Project Board which is to oversee the delivery of ‘Project Woodland’ has held its first meeting.
The speed with which the Project Board and the Chairs of the Working Groups have come together is a clear indication of the sense of urgency and commitment which my Department and stakeholders are bringing to Project Woodland. We must both resolve current difficulties in the forestry sector and revitalise the creation of woodland in Ireland. I believe that this project with its dedicated project management structure will help us do that.
I am particularly grateful to the independent members who have agreed to help us as either part of the Project Board or Chairs of the Working Groups. Project Woodland can only deliver if everyone pulls together and I am very much looking forward to the Stakeholder Working Groups having their first meetings in the very near future.
You will find more information on gov.ie.