Outlining Progress to Laois Forestry Representatives
Steps have been taken to progress an external regulatory review of forestry, Minister Pippa Hackett told a gathering of Laois forestry owners, contractors, and saw mill owners near Portlaoise today.
Recognising the concern of those she met to address licensing issues, Minister Hackett said: ‘I fully understand the need to alleviate the backlog in forestry licenses, and heard first hand how this is affecting those involved in the sector. That is why I am delighted that a contract for a regulatory review of the licensing system will be awarded in the coming days.
"While we are making improvements, we know we must go further, and this review is going to look at the existing statutory framework in relation to environmental and public participation obligations so that practical advice can be provided to us on how to work more efficiently within the existing legal framework. It will also look at arrangements in other EU Member States to see if lessons can be learnt from them.
Elaborating on the resourcing and other improvements which she said had already been made, Minister Hackett continued:
“We’ve gone from having one ecologist working in the Department in 2018 to having 27 today, while the number of forestry inspectors has increased from 40 to 61 since last year. That has moved us to a situation where we expect to issue a steady flow of over 100 licences per week for the rest of the year. In addition to that, we have dealt with the backlog in appeals. The Forestry Appeals Committee has less than 50 outstanding appeals to hear which is a huge reduction from the 1,000 they faced not so long ago.’
The Minister was meeting representatives from the sector who wished to outline how the current situation is impacting their enterprise. As well as discussing the regulatory review, she told them that the Department was considering a proposal for a grant to contribute to the cost of environmental reports for afforestation applicants. She also discussed the need for a new vision for forestry in Ireland.
She said: ‘I established Project Woodland to progress all the issues in forestry concurrently, so I am very happy to see the work that is being done on developing our new vision for the sector. The Project Board, has given it the green light to design a public consultation process on the new Forest Strategy. This will be a unique opportunity for all of us to determine how Ireland’s forests will look like in 50 to 100 years and I am very excited to see the outcome of our joint efforts in around this time next year.