FORESTRY PROGRAMME 2023-2027
The Forestry Programme 2023-2027 was created in alignment with Ireland’s Forest Strategy and as such, is designed to provide lasting benefits for many key areas including climate change, biodiversity, wood production, and employment alongside enhancing societal benefits. The Forestry Programme will provide incentives for farmers and other landowners and will provide farm families with the opportunity to increase and diversify their income streams.
The Department covers 100% of the costs to establish the forest; all payments and earnings are income tax-free.
State Aid approval has been given for the Forestry Programme 2023-2027.
The Afforestation Scheme and Native Tree Area Scheme are now open for applications.
Other Schemes and support measures will be introduced on a phased basis over the coming weeks and months.
The Afforestation Scheme 2023-2027 aims to increase the current land area of Ireland under forest cover (11% vs. EU average of 38%) whilst ensuring these climate resilient and healthy forests are managed according to the principles of sustainable forest management.
The new Forest Strategy for Ireland underpins the new Forestry Programme for the period of 2023-2027.
The Strategy’s overarching objectives are rooted in the three pillars of sustainability - People, Planet and Prosperity. These pillars guide the strategic objectives of the Strategy.
The overriding objective of the Forest Strategy is to radically and urgently expand the national forest estate on both public and private land in a manner that will deliver lasting benefits for climate change, biodiversity, wood production, economic development, employment and quality of life.
The mechanism which will be used to deliver forest expansion in Ireland is the Afforestation Scheme.
The Afforestation Scheme will aim to contribute towards climate change mitigation; to produce commercial timber; to provide a sustainable source of roundwood for wood product manufacture; to provide biomass for energy production; to provide sustainable jobs in the rural economy; to increase the area of native forests and purpose-designed recreational and amenity forests; to improve water quality through the planting of protective forests; and to improve and enhance biodiversity within newly established forests.
This will be achieved through the provision of financial support for the establishment and maintenance of new forested lands.
NATIVE TREE AREA SCHEME
Forests and trees provide a wide range of benefits that include social, environmental and economic values. Ireland has 11.6% forest cover in addition to the many individual trees found growing in hedgerows, parks and fields.
The land use sector, including afforestation, has an important part to play in meeting the ambitious roadmap towards climate neutrality and, as outlined in the recently published Climate Action Plan, aims to afforest 8,000 ha annually to 2030.
This target is ambitious when compared to recent afforestation rates and will be challenging to meet. Clearly, more needs to be done to substantially increase Ireland’s afforestation rates over the next decade. The Government has the stated policy goal of incentivising small-scale tree planting and re-engaging farmers with afforestation.
This includes greater integration between the measures in the National Forestry Programme and the Common Agriculture Policy. However, the inclusion of small-scale tree planting measures in schemes is constrained by the 0.1 ha size limit imposed by the forest definition in the Forestry Act 2014.
Key to the success of increasing afforestation rates is to build confidence among landowners of the benefits of forestry as a viable option to complement existing enterprises.
The introduction of an exemption for afforestation in limited circumstances facilitates the exclusion of clearly defined activities from requiring an afforestation licence. This exemption is an enabling proposal that allows the creation of forests through initiatives, other than the afforestation scheme, thereby contributing to Ireland’s targets in relation to a wide range of environmental priorities, particularly climate change, biodiversity and water quality.
The requirement to comply with environmental law is not undermined by the introduction of an exemption for afforestation in limited circumstances as all works are controlled by regulation through a Department scheme regulations. The development of a scheme will be undertaken following the completion of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA) and subject to the findings of both assessments.
Eligibility criteria and pre-emptive measures will be incorporated into the scheme to ensure that all tree-planting works are
undertaken in a legally compliant and sustainable manner.
In line with the provisions of the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry Act 2022, the Department has provided for the scheme by Regulation, which was signed into law on the 29th September 2023.
The Native Tree Area Scheme will open for applications on the 4th October 2023.