A Forestry Strategy Consultative Committee (FSCC) is being established by the Department of Agriculture as part of its Forest Strategy Implementation Plan.

“The FSCC will be formed in the coming weeks and members will be selected from a broad range of relevant stakeholders,” the Department confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal.

“This committee will establish a range of sub-groups to inform its activities, and in this regard will convene a specific subgroup which will work as a task force to ensure a greater level of engagement and action on ash dieback and other forest health matters,” the Department statement added.

While the Department has faced serious criticism over the ongoing delays in its response to the Independent Ash Dieback Review which was published last September, it has insisted that detailed work regarding the disease is ongoing.

Appropriate response

“Complex and detailed work is ongoing across Government departments to ensure an efficient, appropriate and proportionate response to the report,” the Department told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“A detailed Ash Dieback Action Plan is being prepared for submission to cabinet for approval in the very near future. This will outline comprehensive actions to deal with the issue of ash dieback,” the Department said.

However, the statement failed to provide an exact timeline regarding an announcement.

The Department urged plantation owners impacted by ash dieback to engage with the new Reconstitution scheme which was introduced under the new Forestry Programme 2023-27.

“DAFM continues to issue approvals under the new Reconstitution scheme for ash dieback under the new programme 2023-27, with 269 applications representing 1,065 hectares,” a Department spokesperson said.

“The minister has urged ash owners who have not yet availed of the scheme to assist them in clearing their sites and replanting, to do so now. They will not be disadvantaged in relation to any further initiatives under the [Ash Dieback] Action Plan,” the spokesperson insisted.

Around 6,000 farmers have planted in excess of 20,000ha of ash since the 1990s.