The national forest estate has expanded to 11.6% of the total land area in Ireland, according to the annual forest statistics report for 2022.

Meanwhile, for the first time, more than half (50.9%) of forests are now in private ownership.

Also, in 2021 the volume of roundwood removals was at 4.33m3, an increase of 11% on the 2020 roundwood removals of 3.89m3.

Announcing the publication of Forest Statistics - Ireland 2022, Minister of State Pippa Hackett said the national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11.6% of the total land area or 808,848ha.

“This expansion in the total forest area is as a result of direct afforestation and also the natural expansion of semi-natural forests. For the first time in the history of the State, the area of privately owned forests exceeds the area of publicly owned forests,” she said.

Noting the decreasing trend in the area being afforested annually, the minister said: “The work of Project Woodland will be key in establishing a way forward through the development of a new forest strategy and forestry programme. Incentivising the creation of new forests through our new forestry programme, which will come into place in January 2023, will be essential to meeting not only our economic objectives but also our climate change targets and our aims in terms of enhancing biodiversity.”

Other key statistics

  • During 2021, 2,016ha of new forests were created. Cork had the highest afforestation area at 343ha followed by Roscommon at 190ha.
  • Nationally, conifer species are the dominant species present, representing 69% of forest area while broadleaved species accounted for 31%.
  • The proportion of broadleaves in new forests created during 2021 is 41%, an increase of 7% over 2020. A similar increase occurred in the Native Woodland Establishment scheme operated by my Department, from 18.9% in 2020 to 29.6% in 2021.
  • Farmers have accounted for 81% of private lands afforested between 1980 and 2021.
  • Since 1980, over 23,500 private landowners have received grant aid to establish forests. The average size of private grant-aided afforestation since 1980 is 8.6ha.
  • In terms of wood mobilisation in the private sector, the construction of nearly 72.5km of private forest roads was funded during 2021.
  • Felling licences were issued during 2021, for the thinning of 12,494ha and the clearfelling of 20,709ha.
  • In 2021, total expenditure was €69.5m which includes afforestation grants, annual premium payments and grants for forest road infrastructure.
  • In 2020, Ireland’s forests removed close to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.