Forest owners protest at delays in felling licensing


Forest growers have called for emergency legislation to be introduced to deal with the licence backlog that they claim is causing huge delays and frustration in the sector.

A group of forestry farmers demonstrated outside the Convention Centre in Dublin last week, where the Dáil was meeting, to highlight what they say is now a crisis.

Currently, there are almost 6,000 forest licences caught in the backlog the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) said.

"Farmers are being denied the right to manage their forests," said IFA President, Tim Cullinan. "They planted their land with the legitimate expectation that they would be able to thin and realise an income during its rotation, but the delays mean that this is no longer a reality for many."

Mr Cullinan added that the difficulties are jeopardising the entire industry and that hundreds of jobs have already been lost as a result.

The stalemate is also leading to the value of timber crops here fall by more than €10,000 a hectare where licences cannot be secured, the IFA said.

The association said that while much work has been done in the background, the time for talk is over and legislation must now be introduced by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Pippa Hackett.

She and Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, met with the IFA members last week. They told the farmer representatives that while they accept there are issues, they believe they are addressing them robustly.

"In terms of figures, we explained that in June of this year 411 licenses were issued," the ministers said in a joint statement following the meeting. "80% of those were private, the highest number of private licenses issued in one month in five years. We also updated them on staffing increases, in terms of ecologists, inspectors and administrators."

They added that the meeting also focused on the wider issue of the need for a vision for Irish forestry for the next 100 years.