Proof needed that system for forest licences is working – IFA

IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Vincent Nally, has said that improvements to the forest licencing system are welcome but stressed the need for new targets and increased output so that the backlog can be cleared.

Mr. Nally welcomed improvements to the appropriate assessment procedures and the removal of the requirement to submit Natura Impact Statements by called for more clarity for farmers.

“We need to see new targets and increased output of licences associated with these improvements,” he said.

“Farmers have heard similar promises from the Department in the recent past, but the increased output never materialised.”

A notification was issued to the industry recently detailing changes to private tree felling licence (TFL) applications following an internal review of the system and appropriate assessment procedures.

Mr. Nally said that he very much hoped the changes would improve efficiency and get licences out quicker in the short term, until the recommendations from Project Woodland were forthcoming.

“These changes are very much tinkering around the edges of a system that does not work for farmers. We are waiting on Project Woodland, which will hopefully lead to a complete overhaul of the forest licencing system, to deliver a new and improved system that will support farmers to plant more trees on farms,” he said.

“Each of these licences represents a forest owner who wants to manage their forest. Every additional week limits their management options and potentially reduces the value of their timber crop”.

The Farm Forestry Chairman stressed that a Natura Impact Statement may still be requested by the Department and under these circumstances it was vital that an environmental planning grant was introduced to support farmers with the cost.

There are approximately 6,000 forest licences in the system, of which 1,860 which are privately held, and are for afforestation.

The Department’s target is to issue 4,500 new licences in 2021, or 375 licences per month. To date, approximately 1,500 have issued, with nearly 300 licences issued in May.