Knowing the best place to get help

Joe Barry encountered nothing but encouragement and help when planting back in 1995, but he says rules have changed dramatically since then.
Joe Barry encountered nothing but encouragement and help when planting back in 1995, but he says rules have changed dramatically since then.

William Merrivale

Ireland may be a small country, and the forestry sector isn't always to the fore of people's minds but there is quite a number of organisations and associations operating in the sector. William Merivale gives a run-down on the ones you need to know


Since 1977 the ITGA has supported the development of private sector forestry in Ireland and represented woodland owners.

It is now recognised as the national representative body of private woodland owners, and its wide range of members, from farm forest owners and forestry co-ops to private estates, investors and pension funds, gives it a broad view of the sector.

It is associated with a European federation, with a large membership base reflecting the long tradition of private forestry throughout most of Europe.

ITGA normally holds four field trips annually to members' woodlands, publishes a quarterly newsletter and the Forestry Yearbook, which has become the industry bible.

Donal Whelan, Technical Director of the ITGA, is on hand to give expert advice to members.

It carries out plenty of behind the scenes work as a lobby for the industry as a whole, and private timber growers in particular, on issues of the day.

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These include detailed representations on the forestry budget, taxation, and the new forestry bill which is about to enter the committee stage in the Dáil. ITGA is also responsible for a number of innovative publications. The Irish Thinning Protocol is an essential step-by-step guide to the implementation of the thinning process.


The Model Timber Sales Dispatch System, which incorporates a docket system, has had a wide take-up and enjoys cross-sectoral support from haulage contractors, timber buyers and processors, as well as private forest owners.

The system enables forest owners to keep track of timber as it leaves their property and reduces the incidence of theft.

Soon to be published, the Master Timber Sales Agreement will, for the first time, provide a standardised template sales contract available for the private timber grower.

In conjunction with UCD, ITGA also operates a private timber price database where private growers can provide information anonymously on the prices achieved for their timber.

This information is compiled by the team at UCD and the regularly updated data is published on the members' section of the ITGA website.

According to Donal Whelan, as the only organisation exclusively devoted to representing the private timber grower, all woodland owners should consider membership.


The IFA farm forestry section represents the interests of farm forest owners at local, national and European level.

The committee comprises 30 private forest owners from every county in Ireland under the chairmanship of Michael Fleming.

Moreover, many of the committee members -- past and present -- are active members of the local producer-group movement in Ireland. IFA is also represented on both the FSC and PEFC forest certification initiatives in Ireland. Geraldine O'Sullivan, IFA's farm forestry officer, says that the work programme in 2013 has focused on lobbying for:

* The introduction of a reconstitution scheme for owners affected by ash dieback;

* The continuation of forestry funding;

* The reversal of the Forest Service policy on the recoupment of grants and premiums following the redigitisation of forest areas;

* The removal of restrictions on planting unenclosed land under the afforestation programme;

* The reintroduction of afforestation quota in the hen harrier SPAs

* Amendments to the Forestry Bill, so that property rights of private forest owners are respected under the new legislation.

The Farm Forestry section provides independent, professional advice to farm forest owners on all aspects of forest management, from establishment to harvesting and selling timber.

Ms O'Sullivan says that the section will also provide representation on individual cases, if required by a member.

IFA holds an annual national farm forestry conference, publishes forestry newsletters, and organises regular, local members' meetings.


ProSilva Ireland is the Irish branch of the wider European ProSilva movement. It was founded in 2000 in order to develop and promote an alternative to clear-felling in Irish forestry.

Large-scale clear-fell is becoming increasingly unacceptable for environmental and landscape reasons, and the growing emphasis across Europe is for continuous cover silvicultural systems.

ProSilva Ireland has an important role to play in helping us all to understand and implement this system.

The organisation organises field trips and demonstrations to woodlands where the owners have started the process of conversion, at least in part, to continuous cover forestry.

These field trips visit both Coillte and private forests.

ProSilva is also committed to developing an Irish market for large-dimensioned timber, both hardwood and softwood.

It should be remembered that our sawmills have adapted over time to handling smaller logs simply because small-dimensioned timber is what was typically available.

It has often been said that if there was an increase in supply of larger logs the sawmills would again adapt to handle them.


The Teagasc Forestry Development Department provides advice, training and research on farm forestry and related matters.

The department employs a countrywide team of qualified foresters, who are on hand to give advice on a one-to-one basis, and provide training courses and field demonstrations. Teagasc also organises national and regional events and conferences, including the well-attended regional Talking Timber events, which started in 2012, and conferences such as the Producer Groups Conference -- Strength in Numbers held in Limerick Junction last September. Teagasc was instrumental in the formation of the emerging network of producer groups.

These groups are vitally important for knowledge sharing amongst owners and for the effective marketing of small wood lots. While these groups must establish themselves and find their own way, Teagasc is still closely involved with their development.

Forestry research projects currently include tree improvement and selection, facilitating the supply of wood chip from thinnings, and short rotation coppice systems.

This research is carried out both on Teagasc lands and on farm forestry sites throughout the country.


The two global forest certification organisations are both represented through their respective national organisations, thus providing a choice to the forest owner. The PEFC Irish Forest Certification Standard was the first of the two to be endorsed by PEFC International in December 2011, while the FSC Irish Forest Stewardship Standard was endorsed by FSC International in May 2012.

Both schemes are available to owners to certify their woodland management against a national standard.

Irish Independent