An external and independent review on the forestry licensing process has been ordered by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Senator Pippa Hackett.

“Our new vision for forestry in Ireland must deliver for the environment, for communities and for industry,” Hackett stated, after chairing the fifth meeting of the Forestry Policy Group.

“However, the most pressing and urgent is the need to review the regulatory and planning process for forestry licensing, with particular focus on how other EU member states approve these processes. I have now instructed the Project Board to immediately commission an external expert to carry out this work.

“It is clear that real progress is being made. Reform on the scale that is proposed here is not easy or quick, but is always worthwhile,” she noted.

The Forestry Policy Group was assembled as part of Project Woodland in February 2021 by Minister Hackett, with the objective of addressing forestry licensing issues and developing a new national Forestry Strategy.

Yearly target

The minister also took the occasion to welcome recent improvements in forestry licence approvals, with an average of 90 to 100 licences approved weekly since mid-May, according to the minister.

Much of this increase in licensing output has been to the benefit of private landowners, especially farmers, she explained.

The minister re-iterated that the Department remains committed to reaching its target of 4,500 licences by the end of this year and will continue to invest heavily in resources. The five new ecologists joining the department last week were cited as evidence of these resources.