Forestry planting by non-farmers up 150pc
There was a 150pc surge in the levels of forestry planted by non-farmers last year, official figures reveal.
The new Department of Agriculture data shows that 35pc of the total area planted in 2016 was carried out by non-farming private investors.
Counties with the highest proportion of non-farming investors - more than 40pc - include: Leitrim, Longford, Clare and Cavan.
However, forestry companies have been quick to point out that the sharp rise comes from a low baseline figure of just a 3pc nationwide increase in forestry last year.
Although there has been much political and some farm community criticism over the Government's planting ambitions, industry leaders say rural dwellers are mainly behind the 150pc surge.
John O'Reilly, CEO of Green Belt, Ireland's largest private forestry company, says the figure is "very positive".
"It's a good thing. Forestry is an integrated part of land use policy, it makes no sense to me to have marginal land that is suitable for forestry not planted."
He claims that much of the 150pc are "traditional rural folk" or "part-time farmers".