There is no hope of Ireland having any chance of meeting its future climate change targets if issues around afforestation aren’t addressed, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

The public representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency noted that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine would have to field the blame for these targets not being met if immediate action is not taken when it comes to afforestation targets.

Commenting on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “The Minister of State, Pippa Hackett, recently provided an update on Project Woodland and forestry licensing issues.

“While progress seems to have been made when it comes to felling licence, for both private forest owners and Coillte, we are in serious trouble when it comes to afforestation targets.

“If you look at the latest figures, there were six times more private felling licences issued (36) than afforestation applications (6). A further 52 felling licences were issued to Coillte during that week.

“Take October and November as a whole, there were 746 felling licences issued by the department. The number of afforestation applications which gained approval stood at 92 over that nine-week period.

“If you look at hectares alone, felling licences amounted to a total of 6,152ha over October and November. Afforestation licences amounted to 654ha over the same period.

“So for those two months, we are giving the green light to forest owners to fell over nine times the area of new ground we are giving landowners the go-ahead to plant.

“In her recent update, Minister Hackett acknowledged that the improvement in the processing of licences has not been equal – and that the afforestation system needs particular attention.

“This is an understatement. Targets of establishing 8,000ha of new are constantly talked about, but the reality is we will not reach even half of that this year – as has been the case for the last few years. With just one month of processing left in the year, the likelihood is that 2021 will fall behind each of the last two years when it comes to afforestation.

“The department revealed plans lately to implement a pilot pre-application discussion with foresters ‘to streamline the applications for afforestation’. But further action is required if we are to have any hope of reaching the lofty afforestation targets, which will in turn assist with meeting climate change targets.

“But the department and relevant ministers have a considerable amount of work to do to rebuild confidence among landowners in the forestry sector, particularly given the well-documented troubles it has encountered in recent years,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

For further information contact Michael Fitzmaurice at 086-1914565

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