Forestry proposal for 1.8m hectares of marginal land
Published 20/01/2016 | 02:30
Taxation measures, guaranteed subsidy payments, and new grant levels for forestry are all recommended in a report to help boost the number of trees being planted.
The in-depth report also calls for discussions between the forestry sector and the National Parks and Wildlife Service over permitting some planting in Hen Harrier special protection areas as soon as possible.
The report - from the Council for Forest Research and Development, COFORD - highlighted 1.08m hectares of land with 'limited' agricultural capabilities that could be utilised for forestry plantations.
It notes that farmers "seem to be unwilling to afforest", despite returns from forestry that are comparable to cattle and sheep farming.
When land that is subject to environmental constraints is excluded, the area being targeted falls to 1.08m hectares. Some 49pc of this is being currently used for cattle, 18pc for dairy, 27pc for sheep, 2pc for tillage and 4pc in mixed livestock farming.
Minister of State for forestry, Tom Hayes, said the report showed there was a major land asset in Ireland that was "suitable to support an increase in forest cover".
With forestry being touted as a vital contribution to the farm sector's efforts to minimise greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Hayes said they would be examining the 28 recommendations in the report to work towards "restoring the national forest resource".
However, he noted that there were already "attractive grant aid and premium payments" in place for landowners.