Why you can't fire up your chainsaw anymore until paperwork is completed
Securing a valid felling licence is the first step whether felling or thinning trees, writes Steven Meyen
Where do you start if you want to fell trees on the farm? Not by putting petrol in your chainsaw but by filling out the necessary paper work. Thinning your forest, felling a tree on the farm or coppicing a woodland all have one thing in common: you have to have a valid felling licence in place before you start the work.
The Forestry Act 2014 replaced the Forestry Act 1946 at the end of May of this year and judging by the number of calls I'm getting, forest owners are not familiar with the new application form yet.
A felling licence is issued by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Once in place, it will allow you to fell or otherwise remove a tree or trees and to thin a forest for management reasons. A felling licence can be valid for up to 10 years and can be extended for another five years. There are exemptions where a felling licence is not required, but that is a topic for another article.
What is a forest?
Trying to define a forest is a good place to start. Under the Forestry Act 2014, forest land is defined as 'land under trees with a minimum area of 0.1 hectare and tree crown cover of more than 20pc of the total area (or the potential to achieve this cover at maturity)'.
Making a felling licence application
The felling licence application form is a six-page document requiring more detail than before. For instance, you will need to estimate the timber volume to be felled, the level of canopy closure and so on. This may sound like a daunting task but the excellent guidance notes make filling out this form pretty straightforward.
The completed form is sent to the Felling Section of the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) based in Johnstown Castle Estate in Co Wexford.
The application form, detailed guidance notes as well as examples of completed application forms can be found at www.teagasc.ie/forestry or www.agriculture.gov.ie/ forestservice.
When a licence application is received, the Forest Service (DAFM) will publish a notice of the application before making a decision on the matter. Any person can make a submission within 30 days. The notices can be accessed from the Department and Teagasc websites. Details provided include when the application was received; the relevant townland and county; the area involved and the last date for submissions. Those that make a submission will be informed of the decision.
Approvals and appeals
Tree felling decisions can be accessed from the Department and Teagasc websites.
You can appeal a felling approval decision. This must be done in writing within a 28-day window. The appeal should be addressed to the Forestry Appeals Committee, Kilminchy Court in Portlaoise.
Once your felling licence has been approved, you need to place a site notice at the entrance from the public road at least seven days before the felling starts. This notice must remain in place for the entire duration of harvesting operations.
This site notice must be easily visible and readable from the public road. The sign itself must be made of rigid and durable material and must be replaced if it becomes damaged or difficult to read.
The site notice must include your name, location, townland and felling licence number. A description of the nature and extent of the tree felling must also be included as well as the approximate start and end dates and when the notice was erected at the site.
The site notice informs passers-by that a felling licence has been issued. It is however, not part of a consultation or appeals process.
Now that you have your paperwork sorted, it is time to put petrol in your chainsaw and struggle into your protective gear.
Steven Meyen is a Teagasc forestry advisor email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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