Coillte has declined to quantify the area of new broadleaf forestry that it has planted over the last five years, but it could potentially be as low as 70ha.

In replies to a series of questions from the Irish Farmers Journal, the State forestry body failed to directly answer specific queries regarding the area planted to broadleaf species.

The current Forestry Programme sets out that 30% of all new plantings should be broadleaves, as the Government seeks to increase the overall area of hardwoods and tackle biodiversity loss.

But Coillte failed to outline its record on broadleaf plantings.

The State agency confirmed that it has planted just 210ha of new forestry since 2017, but it did not give a breakdown of the area planted to broadleaf species, despite being asked.

However, in a subsequent answer, Coillte indicated that the area of new broadleaf forests planted by the State agency since 2017 could be as low as 30% of the 210ha total or just 70ha.

“In our afforestation operations, conifer planting does not exceed 70%, with the remaining areas consisting of diverse broadleaves and open space areas of biodiversity enhancement,” Coillte stated.

It confirmed that in the period from 2017 to 2020, it had replanted between 8,000ha and 9,000ha of harvested forests each year.

But Coillte indicated that most of these plantations were retained in the species that was harvested, so there was no increase the area planted to broadleaf species as part of this process.

“In our reforestation operations, Coillte replant those trees which were harvested for wood production.

“Coillte’s tree harvesting is focused on conifer forests, which were planted to produce wood, while broadleaves are retained for nature conservation and recreational purposes in the main,” Coillte stated.

The State agency maintained that it manages 90,000ha, or just over 20% of all its lands, with “biodiversity as the primary management objective, to protect and enhance nature.”

It is also unclear whether Coillte aims to significantly ramp up the planting of broadleaves.

Asked about its future planting intentions, Coillte said its plans were “currently under consideration.”