An evaluation of the forestry setback from streams and rivers will not be completed until the end of the year, the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.

Responding to a written parliamentary questions from Offaly TD Carol Nolan, Minister McConalogue said a review of setback rules for felling is “currently being actively considered" but will not go to stakeholder consultation until later in the year.

However, the minister conceded that there was an issue around setbacks. This is particularly the case where setbacks are being sought as part of felling licence conditions for mature forests that were planted right up to water courses.

“Setback rules are currently being actively considered. During 2023, a ‘felling licence conditions’ document was circulated to Forest Industry Ireland, following which a consultation process took place. This included several meetings and a site visit, where the issue of setbacks was discussed in detail,” Minister McConalogue said.


“A review of these setbacks is now underway within my Department, and is due to conclude shortly. The next draft of the felling conditions document will be subject to a stakeholder consultation later this year,” he added.

Setback distances generally start at 10m for mineral soils on moderate slopes, and can vary to 25m on steep slopes where the soils have a peat component.

“The extent of open space created by setbacks is therefore dependent on site types and the amount of water courses on the site. It is the case that many forests planted in the past that are now ready for clearfell were planted on peaty sites with steep slopes. This means that many of the licences currently being issued would have water set backs on them,” Minister McConalogue said.

The purpose of the water setback is to create a buffer of natural ground vegetation between the water course and the plantation, so as to protect water quality and aquatic ecosystems from possible sediment and nutrient run-off.

However, Deputy Nolan claimed that the setback requirements were reducing the area available for planting by as much as 40% on some sites.