Forestry planting back nationally but Leitrim still home to most new trees

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

New forestry figures show that in 2017 there was over 5,536ha around the country planted with forestry, down from the 6,293ha planted in 2015.

The National Forest Estate is now 11pc of the national land area, according to National Forest Inventory.

Although there has been much emphasise on the need for Ireland to increase the amount of land being planted, there has been a significant reduction in the amount of land being planted in 2017, compared to 2015.

County by county analysis of land being planted shows that Leitrim saw the highest amount of land being planted last year, with 536ha added to the county’s woodland. Leitrim now has 18.9pc of its land bank planted.

The overall figures show that although new land devoted to forestry was reduced, it also highlights that what is being planted is being concentrated in the West and North-west according to Sinn Féin TD for Sligo and Leitrim, Martin Kenny.

“Forestry has dropped back but the land has been concentrated in some counties. More and more land is being planted in the West and North west and its causing tension for farmers who want to buy land,” he explained.

Mayo came in a close second for planting the most in 2017, where some 531ha was planted. While the Banner county was the third largest contributor to the national forestry last year with 518ha being planted. Other counties that were top of the charts were Cork, Galway and Roscommon. Cork has the largest forest area.

Meanwhile, Dublin planted the lowest number of trees last year with 10ha added to the county’s woodland. Louth, Kildare and Monaghan were also poor land contributors to forestry last year.

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The Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme is the main afforestation scheme, it is operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and is available to private land owners.

It sits within the Forestry Programme 2014 to 2020, which considers the aims and objectives of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy; certain commitments are provided for, including a target of 30pc broadleaf planting on an annual and national basis.

In 2017, there was an increased the broadleaf component in proposed sites to 15pc, as well as increasing the rates payable to encourage broadleaf planting. These changes are already showing results, with broadleaf planting now at an average of 25pc, according to the Department’s figures.

The national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11pc of the total land area, with a wide variety of forest types present. The total forest area has increased from 697,842 hectares (ha) in 2006 to 770,020 ha in 2017.

Over half (50.8pc) of forests are in public ownership and 378,663 ha (49.2pc) are in private ownership. The share of private forests in the national forest estate has increased by over 6pc since 2006.

Conifer species are the dominant species present, representing 71.2pc of the stocked forest area while broadleaved species accounted for 28.7pc of the area. The share of broadleaf species in the national forest estate has increased by 3pc between 2013 and 2017.

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