I was delighted this week to announce that the Government has decided to proceed quickly with the implementation of a number of forestry related commitments in the Programme for Government.
As a Nation we need to plant more of the right trees in the right places. The Programme for Government commits to an ambitious afforestation plan, and a robust system is a critical part of that objective. This early action by Government is designed to build a sustainable licencing and public participation model, and to engage public bodies in the drive to plant more native woodlands. These actions are being further enhanced by the recruitment of a significant number of ecologists by my Department.
The commitments in the Programme for Government include a proposal to amend the Agriculture Appeals Act, 2001 to align the forestry licencing and appeals processes with the planning processes; the development of a new scheme for the creation of native woodlands on state and other public lands; the development of a new a portal to enhance public participation in forestry decision-making in Ireland; and the appointment of an independent Chair, to be identified, to lead the implementation of the MacKinnon report.
A draft Bill to align the forestry licencing and appeals system with other similar planning processes will be published by the end of this week on my Department’s website for the public to view and comment on the proposals. After the consultation, the draft Bill will be presented to the Oireachtas for consideration as soon as possible after the summer recess. These measures are a clear demonstration of the importance that the Government attaches to a forestry sector that can deliver the best possible economic, social, environmental and employment benefits.
I was also thrilled to allocate funding last week to the Wild Atlantic Bog Woodland Project, which will be carried out by Coillte Nature. The funding, provided under the July stimulus package, will allow for the restoring and rewetting of 2,100 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog on the Western seaboard. Currently planted with commercial spruce and pine, this initiative will see the bog replanted with native woodlands to create significant biodiversity and outdoor recreation benefits and improve the visual amenity of this iconic landscape.
Senator Pippa Hackett
Minister of State with Responsibility for Land use and Biodiversity
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