A new citizens’ assembly-style panel of 99 people representing a cross-section of society is among the ways that Minister of State Pippa Hackett is to seek feedback on Ireland’s new forest strategy.

“The development of the next forestry strategy must be grounded in a shared vision that is based on feedback from all stakeholders,” explained the Minister of State, announcing a range of consultations.

“This [deliberative dialogue] format will provide useful insights and complement other wider public consultation forums which will also take place.

"I am also keen to hear from young people, so I am delighted that the youth organisation, An Foróige, will run a youth dialogue later this month,” she said, adding that she would also reach out to other youth organisations.

The deliberative dialogue is expected to place in February or March 2022.

Opinion poll

Meanwhile, results of a survey of 1,000 people, conducted in November and December by an independent polling company, will be published shortly.

The survey asked a wide range of questions to provide insights on a range of topics from climate change, recreation, types of forests to the use of wood.

I also note that 42% of people surveyed live within 5km of a forest and that 58% of people have visited a forest in the last year

Minister Hackett said: “I look forward to sharing the details of it later this month, but initial results show that three out of four people would like more forests and seven out of 10 would like to see a mix of conifers and broadleaves.

“I also note that 42% of people surveyed live within 5km of a forest and that 58% of people have visited a forest in the last year.

“It is also clear that during the recent COVID restrictions the public value public access to woodlands which is so important for our well-being.”

Online consultation

The Department will also carry out online public consultation in the next few months and provide a detailed online questionnaire, which will encourage as many people as possible to complete. Details and timings of all consultation initiatives are currently being finalised.

The Department has also commissioned Irish Rural Link to engage with local communities so their voice can be heard in this consultation and the results of this work is due later in January.

The minister added: “Trees, forests and woodland are good for the environment when they are established with the right tree, in the right place, for the right reason, with the right management.

“Getting all that ‘right’ requires thought and consultation, but I am happy that this work being done by my Department, by Project Woodland and by the planned levels of public and stakeholder engagement will deliver.

“And I believe that at the end of it we will have, firstly, a forest strategy and, subsequently, a forestry programme which supports all the great things trees can do – for our climate, our levels of biodiversity, our rural economies, and of course, our well-being.”