Minister of State for Forestry Pippa Hackett has announced that she has asked the Project Woodland board to immediately commission an “independent external regulatory review of the forestry licensing process”.

While there has been an improvement in felling licence approvals, a large backlog remains.

Minister Hackett said the request for a regulatory review had emerged from the stakeholder led Project Woodland working groups.

“I am very pleased with the progress made by the working groups since we established the project just four months ago,” she said.

“That is a very short timeframe considering the difficult task they have taken on, but they have really hit the ground running.

“Indeed they have submitted first draft proposals on a series of issues which will now be considered by the project board, with a view to implementing some of the aims of Project Woodland.”

The minister acknowledged the various proposals, but said the most pressing need was to review the regulatory and planning process for forestry licensing “with particular focus on how other EU member states approve these processes”.

The Minister reiterated that the Department is committed to its target of 4,500 licences this year and continues to invest heavily in resources with five new ecologists joining it last week.

Forestry licensing is running 27% ahead of last year, according to figures released by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue last week.

Up to 18 June, a total of 1,594 licences were issued, which is 27% ahead of the same period last year.

The licences equate to 3.14m cubic metres of timber, the Minister told Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae in response to a parliamentary question.