Minister of State for Forestry, Tom Hayes today launched Land Availability for Afforestation, – Exploring opportunities for expanding Ireland’s forest resource. The report has been compiled under the auspices of the Council for Forest Research and Development – COFORD.
Speaking at the launch today Minister Hayes said “I want to thank Dr Nuala Ni Fhlatharta, chair of the COFORD Land Availability Working Group and all the members of the group for compiling this report. It is a really important piece of work and one, I have no doubt, that will help us greatly in terms of land classification for afforestation. I am sure it will help to realise our ambitions to expand the forest land resource of the country. Together with the new Environmental Requirements for Afforestation that are now being finalised by the Department, this new land classification system gives us the tools to push on with our ambitious afforestation programme.”
The report outlines the physical land resource that is potentially available for afforestation and makes a series of recommendations on how to increase the level of planting.
The Minister continued “as part of this process we have secured a Forestry Programme to 2020, which plans to expand forest cover by a further 43,000 hectares. This package includes attractive grant aid and premium payments, to all landowners, over a 15-year period, who afforest a part of their land holding. It is a fantastic investment opportunity and one that has the potential to contribute significantly to landowners’ incomes”.
Quoting from the report the Minister added, “On lands classified as being ‘limited’ for agriculture, representing 1.8 million hectares, there is wider scope for afforestation. These lands have a higher proportion of difficult soils, often economically marginal for agriculture, with forestry presenting a viable alternative land use option.”
The Minister concluded by saying, “the take home message of this report is that there is a land asset in Ireland that is eminently suitable to support an increase in forest cover. By examining and implementing recommendations that the report contains, allied to a collective will and capacity, I am convinced that over the coming years we will go a long way towards completing the task of restoring the national forest resource.”
The report can be downloaded from www.coford.ie