Shared National Vision for Forestry 2050 published
The Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, has published a Shared National Vision for Trees, Woods and Forests in Ireland until 2050. The visionary document calls for “the right trees in the right places for the right reasons with the right management – supporting a sustainable and thriving economy and society and a healthy environment”. It anticipates by 2050 that Ireland’s forests will be seen as a key solution to the climate, biodiversity, housing and health emergencies of the 2020s.
Commenting on the Vision, Minister Hackett said: “In advance of the publication of a new Forest Strategy and Forestry Programme, I am delighted to publish today our Shared National Vision for Trees, Woods and Forests. My department has carried out extensive consultation to find out what we as a nation want from our trees, and this Shared Vision reflects the outcome of that consultation. It is a call to action and shows the urgency needed to plant the right trees in the right places. The Vision underlines our commitment to sustainably manage our expanding forest estate and to increase the environmental, economic and social benefits of forests.”
The Shared Vision is based on the work of Project Woodland, the group formed last year to examine potential reforms to Ireland’s forestry sector and to consider Ireland’s longer term strategic direction for forestry. Project Woodland is developing a new Forest Strategy to 2030, which will underpin a new Forestry Programme for the period 2023-2027.
The draft Forest Strategy to 2030 will be subject to public consultation shortly and will be shaped by the extensive feedback received on the Vision over the last 12 months. The next Forestry Programme will be the primary means by which we deliver on the Vision and on the Strategy in the immediate term. There has been significant engagement to date with stakeholders and the public on the next Forestry Programme, and the draft Programme will shortly be subject to further statutory and public consultation through the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment processes.
Minister Hackett said: “This is a shared vision, and is every bit as much for the wider public as it is for those working in the forestry sector. It amplifies the many benefits of forests: for our climate, our people, our economy and Ireland’s water quality, biodiversity and habitats. I am proud to stand behind this vision which shows our intent to rapidly increase the establishment of new forests.”
The text for the new Shared National Vision for Trees, Woods and Forests has been informed by a series of consultation methods with the public which the department initiated through Project Woodland over the past year. These consultations included a public attitudes survey, an online survey, a study of the attitudes of rural communities, a citizens’ assembly style deliberative dialogue, a youth forum, and a series of bilateral meetings with key stakeholders. Individual reports and summary of all six consultations are now available on the department’s website: Shared National Vision for Trees and Forests.
Minister Hackett said: “The results of the various consultations on forestry over the past year give a hugely valuable insight into what Irish people want from our forests, and we have found a significant degree of consensus in this regard. There is almost unanimous support to establish more forests, and this aligns with commitments in the Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan to urgently expand the area of forests in Ireland.”
Text of Shared Vision for Trees, Woods and Forests in Ireland 2050 The right trees in the right places for the right reasons with the right management - supporting a sustainable and thriving economy and society and a healthy environment. By 2050, Ireland’s forests and woodlands will be seen as a symbol of the transformational social, economic and environmental changes that were needed to address the climate, biodiversity, housing and health emergencies of the 2020’s. A much larger and more diverse forest footprint is being successfully managed to balance and deliver multiple objectives and benefits for climate, nature, water quality, wood production, people, the wider economy and rural communities. It forms a valuable, compatible element of the farming enterprise and is co-existing in harmony with urban and other landscapes and valued highly by citizens. It is also supporting a thriving and growing forest sector, long term quality employment for a sustainable workforce, ecosystem services and public, educational and recreational amenities.
There is a nationwide awareness and understanding of the multiple benefits of forests. Forestry is at the centre of the circular and green economy with Irish grown timber the material of choice for the substitution of carbon intensive building products for new Irish homes. Forestry is providing a profitable diversification option for farmers, with people living in rural, urban and suburban communities feeling a sense of connection and pride in their local forests and woodlands, and the many benefits that they provide. Legacy environmental issues associated with past forestry practices are being successfully addressed, building on improvements already made through enhanced sustainable forest management practices. The Irish landscape now features a rich variety of diverse, resilient and healthy trees, woods and forests, established for multiple purposes and delivering multiple benefits for the environment, economy and society on both public and private land.
Project Woodland and Consultation Methods Project Woodland was established in February 2021 to ensure a new impetus is brought to forest establishment in Ireland. This Project involves a review and refresh of processes and procedures and includes outside stakeholder participation to bring an independent perspective.
Through extensive consultation with stakeholders and the public, Project Woodland is developing a new Forest Strategy to 2030 which will underpin a new Forest Programme for the period 2023-2027.
On the recommendation of Project Woodland, the department commissioned six consultation strands to help develop a shared vision for the role of trees and forests and a national Forest Strategy for Ireland. These consultation strands are as follows:
Public Attitudes Survey. This study featured a questionnaire based on face to face interviews with 1,000 adults. Marketing firm Behaviour and Attitudes carried out the report
Online Public Consultations Survey. An online questionnaire was open for six weeks and received more than 3,000 responses. The questionnaire was open to the public and was designed with the assumption that respondents would have some knowledge of trees and forests. Project management firm M-CO helped facilitate the survey
Deliberative Dialogue. This two-day, online citizens’ assembly style event involved 99 people debating and deliberating the future of forestry in Ireland. Participants were representative of the general population. Project management consultancy firm M-CO helped facilitate the event
Assessment of the Attitudes of Communities and Interested Parties. This study featured an online questionnaire, a series of focus groups, and a report that compared forest practices in Ireland with case studies in Finland and Scotland. It focused on the impact forests have on local communities. The study was carried out by community group Irish Rural Link
Youth Forum. A youth dialogue was held in January 2022 to assess the attitudes of young people to trees and forests. Foróige, a youth development organisation working with 50,000 people aged 10-18, recruited participants from its membership for an online discussion
Bilateral Meetings with Stakeholders. The department held individual meetings with 27 key stakeholders between November 2021 and June 2022. These meetings aimed to get a better understanding of the views and needs of stakeholders in the context of developing a shared vision and new Forest Strategy
Sample of Key Messages from Public Consultations
The current level of forest cover in Ireland is too low and there is an urgent need for a greater level of ambition. A significant shift in land use change is needed and will require much better integration of trees and forests with traditional farming and agricultural practices. There needs to be a regulatory system in place that can deal efficiently and effectively with the requirements of forest establishment and management.
The Right Reasons Climate change is a key driver for increasing forest cover. Increasing the use of wood and wood products, both as a long-term store of carbon and as a substitute to using more carbon intensive products are key ways that forests can contribute to meeting our climate targets. There is generally a very positive attitude toward forests in Ireland and they are an important natural resource for urban and rural communities, using them regularly for recreation and health and wellbeing. Not all communities experience the multi-benefits of forests equally and some have had negative impacts. These experiences need to be acknowledged and understood and the learning outcomes used to expand the benefits of trees and forests in a way that is more inclusive and integrated. There is a preference to see more wood products used in the construction of Irish houses and in energy generation as an alternative to carbon intensive products. Supporting and protecting nature and biodiversity are key drivers for increasing forest cover and planning and managing existing forests.
The Right Trees There is a preference among the public for more diverse mixed forests and native forests. Supports and incentives need to be in place to encourage farmers and landowners to plant more mixed and native forests. The benefits and opportunities from such a long term investment should be clear.
The Right Places People would like to see more forests established on a mix of private and public lands and in urban and peri-urban areas. There is a clear preference for planting on farmland in a way that enhances ecosystems and biodiversty. There is support for considering an alternative approach to forest planning; one that is plan led and based at a catchment, landscape, local authority or county level.
The Right Management There is a general preference for a more diverse approach to forest management, such as Continuous Cover Forestry, in a way that supports and protects local ecosystems and biodiversity. There is an interest at community level to facilitate greater community involvement in forest establishment and management.
The full text of the Vision is available here: Shared National Vision for Trees and Forests.