DEAR SIR: After a decade of decline in forestry planting, it is disappointing to note the response of Minister Charlie McConalogue to a recent Dáil question in relation to the 20% cap on unenclosed land for forestry planting.
The minister’s response was at best ambiguous where he attempted to justify the implementation of the 20% cap on unenclosed land for forestry planting in 2010 as being an EU requirement.
In fact, as reported by Donal Magner in his article, “Minister’s position on unenclosed land rejected” in the Irish Farmers Journal last week Minister McConalogue was factually incorrect in claiming that the 20% cap on forestry land was instigated by the European Commission. If the Minister was correctly informed, he would have known that the 20% cap was a flawed measure introduced by the then Irish Government that resulted in the drastic decline in forestry planting over the last decade.
As a farmer with an interest in forestry, I find it astonishing that the current minister with overall responsibility for forestry, would attempt to justify the 20% cap when it has been the single greatest disincentive for farmers to choose forestry as a land-use option.
In general, many farmers would be favourably disposed to planting some of their marginal land but are prevented from doing so by the 20% cap on unenclosed land that would, in many instances, rule out forestry or render it an uneconomic option.
Given the minister’s comments and the ongoing upheaval in the Department’s forestry section in relation to approvals for planting and licences for felling and forestry roadways, it is difficult to foresee a progressive forestry policy emerging from this current state of chaos.