Coillte has insisted that it remains focused on its plans to create an additional 100,000ha of new forests by 2050.

While the State forestry body has admitted that further tie-ups with private investment funds were not being considered by the organisation, it stated that planting an additional 3,500ha per year remains its long-term strategic vision.

“To contribute to the nation’s afforestation targets in line with Government policy, Coillte’s long-term strategic vision is to enable the creation of 100,000ha of new forests by 2050, half of which will be native woodlands,” Coillte told the Irish Farmers Journal.

It said that its plan involves three different initiatives, including the use of public lands, its Nature Trust and its tie up with the controversial Irish Strategic Forestry Fund (ISFF), which was launched recently by the UK-headquartered asset management firm Gresham House.


Strong opposition to the Gresham House-Coillte deal resulted in the Government distancing itself from this model of afforestation.

In terms of the use of public lands for afforestation, Coillte said it was currently in discussions with other State bodies, such as Bord na Móna.

“We’re working with public authorities to identify any land that is suitable for afforestation. For example, the first project under way within this initiative is the Bord na Móna Native Woodlands project, which is currently focused on native woodland development on just over 200ha. If this project is successful, we aim to extend it to c1,500ha,” Coillte outlined.

“The second initiative is the creation of new native woodlands, which will be realised by Nature Partners CLG, the Nature Trust, which is a not-for-profit company that attracts third-party capital from ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] impact investors. Coillte is a member of Nature Partners CLG,” the State body explained.

Further deals

While the third plank of Coillte’s plan is the ISFF, the forestry company conceded that further deals with investment firms such as Gresham House were not in the pipeline.

“We are also, however, considering how we could potentially work more closely with farmers to deliver afforestation, or acquire land directly if state aid rules were changed, and in a way that supports the environment and the rural economy,” Coillte added.

Coillte has been excluded under EU state aid rules from drawing down grants and premia supports for afforestation since the 1990s.