I want to welcome the publication of the ‘Project Woodland: Regulatory Review Report’. The independent expert review was commissioned by my Department to review Ireland’s forestry regulations and was undertaken by the law firm, Philip Lee LLP. Two working groups of ‘Project Woodland’ – which I formed last year with key stakeholders to develop a consensus on the future of forestry in Ireland – recommended commissioning a review of Ireland’s forestry regulations.
This independent report was necessary to assess the extent to which forestry in Ireland is being appropriately regulated, and also importantly whether any improvements can be made to the licencing system while working within the parameters of Irish and EU environmental law. The report outlines changes in environmental law which have resulted in the increasingly complex regulatory framework that has ultimately led to delays in the issuing of forest licences in recent years. It also makes recommendations which my Department and I must now fully consider as we continue to reduce the backlog of forestry licence applications.
The report is a valuable source of information and a reference document for everyone involved in forestry. It is comprehensive and was the subject of detailed stakeholder consultation with over 60 stakeholder meetings informing its final outcome. I encourage all stakeholders to read the report now in detail. In parallel, the Project Board which is leading on the implementation of Project Woodland will be studying closely the recommendations and working with my Department on an action plan for implementation.