• Pippa Hackett

Minister Hackett publishes large-scale public survey results on forestry in Ireland

PRESS RELEASE


Minister Hackett publishes large-scale public survey results on forestry in Ireland


Public wants more woodland creation - gives climate and conservation as the top reasons

The Minister of State for Biodiversity and Land Use at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, today announced the results of the “Attitudes to Afforestation in Ireland” survey. This survey was commissioned by the Minister’s Department as part of Project Woodland’s work to develop Ireland’s next National Forest Strategy. Project Woodland was established by Minister of State Hackett to implement a range of initiatives aimed at developing our forests and creating a new vision for forestry based on a shared national approach.


The survey found a very positive attitude in general to forestry, including:

  • Three out of four people were in favour of planting more forests in their county, as well as more trees in urban areas.

  • People said the most important benefits of forests were how they addressed climate change (25% of respondents), enhanced air quality (15%), contributed to wildlife and biodiversity (14%), and supported mental health (14%). Overall, 88% of those surveyed said they thought forests and woodlands benefited local communities.

  • Almost two in five people said they would like an even balance of forests & agriculture in their ideal landscape, while a further quarter would like a forest-dominated landscape.

  • A majority of people (72%) favoured planting broadleaf and conifer trees in new forests. 17% said they would like to see mainly broadleaves planted; 11% favoured mainly conifers.

  • Adults with young children are more likely to have visited a forest in the past year; the over 50s are the most frequent visitors generally.

58% of people have visited a forest in the past year with exercise and recreation cited as the key visit driver. 57% said they visited woodlands more since the COVID-19 pandemic began compared to 2019.


Minister Hackett said, “I am delighted to see the positive attitude people have towards woodlands, with 88% agreeing that forests provide benefits to local communities. Four out of five linked the importance of new forests to climate change mitigation and conservation. Woodlands are important amenities as shown by the increase in people visiting since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These findings emphasise the value people put on woodlands and represent an opportunity to grow the forestry sector along with industry.”

Under Project Woodland, a dedicated working group was established within it to deliver on a new strategy, and a range of consultation initiatives are ongoing. Next month an online consultation will open for the public to share their views, and a two day deliberative dialogue on forestry – in a Citizens’ Assembly style format – will also take place.

The survey of 1,012 people found most people live close to a forest, with 42% of us within 5km of one. People living in urban areas are as close to woodlands on average as those living in the countryside. Half of woodland visitors wouldn’t change forests but some suggested toilets could be provided as well as better access and signage.

Just 10% of people live in a wood built house, although up to a quarter more of the population would like to do so. Significantly almost two in five (37%) people use wood fuels for cooking or heating at home. More than a quarter (27%) use wood logs, followed by one in ten using wood briquettes.

Minister Hackett added

“I hope this survey, the first my Department has undertaken on attitudes towards forestry, is followed up with similar studies to track opinions on woodlands. Trees are good for the environment, good for people’s well-being, and good for the rural economy. This survey confirms the public’s positive attitude towards woodlands.”
“2022 is an exciting year for forestry in Ireland as we look to increase the planting of new woodlands. Based on feedback from stakeholders we are developing a new Forest Strategy that is rooted in a shared vision for forestry. The planting and felling of forests will have an impact for future generations and our target of 8,000 hectares per year shows the scale of our ambitions. I would encourage anyone interested in planting new forests to take the first step this year. “

A copy of the report is available at gov.ie - Forestry (www.gov.ie)

ENDS