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Saturday 21 July 2018

Forestry Programme carving out new territory

There are top-ups from various capital grants and forestry
There are top-ups from various capital grants and forestry

William Merivale

The new Forestry Programme to 2020 contains 11 headline measures. Following on from our recent analysis of the afforestation aspect, we look at the other 10 measures

1 ROADING

In 2012 the National Forest Inventory showed that 23pc of the national estate had reached thinning stage but had not been thinned.

Timber mobility is a challenge in many areas and an adequate forest road infrastructure is essential if thinnings are to be harvested efficiently and on time.

This measure sees the return of a grant-aided forest road scheme with some changes to the eligible area and timing of payments.

The grant will be up to 100pc of costs subject to a maximum of €40/linear metre and a maximum roading density of 20m/ha.

2 Woodland Reconstitution

The purpose of this measure is to restore and retain forests and forest ecosystems following significant damage by natural causes.

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The principal aim is to contribute to the costs of restoring a forest as a result of damage, or potential damage, from disease outbreaks.

The scheme will also support the removal and destruction of trees infected by contagious pathogens, or trees likely to be so infected.

Support may also be considered for the restoration of forests damaged by other natural causes, catastrophic events and/or climate change related events, including frost, wind, deer, grey squirrel and vole, where more than 20pc of the forest potential has been damaged.

Proposed maximum grant rates are €3,300/ha for conifers and €5,000/ha for broadleaves.

3 NeighbourWood Scheme

This measure will provide support for the development of new and existing 'neighbourwoods' for public access, education, recreation and enjoyment on land in or near villages, towns and cities. The NeighbourWood Scheme is aimed primarily at local authorities and private landholders, working in partnership with local communities. Proposed grant rates will be up to €5,000/ha.

4 Woodland Improvement

Similar to the previous scheme, this measure will support the tending and thinning of broadleaf forests planted since 1980 and enhancing the environmental qualities of existing predominantly broadleaf forests. A fixed grant of up to €750/ha will be available under the Scheme.

Funding may also be available for brashing to improve access for manual application of fertiliser where aerial fertilisation is not possible. In this instance the grant will be cost based up to a maximum of €750/ha.

Environmental Enhancement funding is to be made available to support actions within existing forests which effect structural changes that will proactively protect and enhance water quality, archaeological sites, habitats and species, and sensitive landscapes.

5 Native Woodland Conservation Scheme

The measure supports the protection and enhancement of existing native woodland, primarily with a focus on the associated ecosystems.

While the core objective of the scheme is the protection and enhancement of Ireland's native woodland resource, wood production remains an option and is encouraged, once ecologically compatible and undertaken through continuous cover forestry.

Emphasis is placed on the application of appropriate restorative management of existing native woodlands, but can also include the conversion of non-native woodlands (including conifer forests) to native woodland.

A strong priority will be placed on important native woodland types and opportunities for habitat linkage, with a view to realising wider eco-system services such as water protection.

6 Knowledge Transfer

The aim of this scheme will be to maximise the potential for knowledge and skill transfer to forest owners, thereby stimulating proactive management and appropriate tending, thinning and harvesting interventions.

The programme will focus primarily on five areas: 1) silviculture, 2) financial management, 3) forest health, 4) environmental awareness to include water quality and biodiversity, and 5) timber harvesting/marketing.

Support may cover up to 100pc of the eligible costs. These are the costs of travel, accommodation and per diem expenses of the participants.

7 Producer Groups

Financial support will be provided towards the cost of establishing producer groups in a manner consistent with rules set out in the RDR.

Applicants will need to submit a detailed business plan providing a description of the project, including objectives, timelines and projected expenditure.

The Department will verify that the objectives of the business plan have been reached within a period of five years from the date of recognition of the producer group or organisation.

Aid will be paid as a flat rate in annual instalments for the first five years from the date on which the producer group or organisation was officially recognised by the competent authority on the basis of its business plan. The last instalment will be paid after verifying that the business plan has been correctly implemented.

8 Forestry Technology

Grants of up to 40pc of eligible expenditure should be available under this measure which aims to support the introduction of new technologies in private forests which have the potential to increase efficiency, reduce costs and minimize environmental impacts of forestry operations.

Small-scale innovations applicable to private owners, producer groups and contractors will be supported.

9 Genetic Reproductive Material

This is designed to support the conservation of native genetic material and improve the resilience of our forests to disease and climate change. The scheme will provide funding towards the costs related to the following;

a) Management and conservation of broadleaf seed stands and

b) Establishment of new production areas such as seed orchards.

10 Forest Management Plans

All grant aided forests must submit a Forest Management Plan (FMP) for plantations at year 12 for areas of five hectares or greater.

The mid-term review, or earlier if budgets allow, will look at supporting private non-grant aided-forests as well.

It is recognised that there is a need to encourage all forest owners to develop these plans, particularly in support of felling licence applications where appropriate.

William Merivale is national secretary of PEFC Ireland and a forestry consultant based in Cork. Email: william@cjandco.net

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