Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, today announced the publication of the Department’s annual Forest Statistics Report for 2023.

This Report is prepared annually by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and provides an annual compilation of statistics on the forests, the environment and the forestry sector in Ireland.

Launching the report, Minister Hackett commented:

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This annual report brings together reliable, up to date forestry statistics that are useful both for my Department and for forest stakeholders, as well as being important for Ireland’s international reporting requirements relating to forests and forestry.

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In relation to the findings themselves, the Minister added :

Earlier this year my Department launched the National Forest Inventory for 2022 which details that our forest estate is still expanding at 11.6% of the total land area.

In 2022 an additional 2,273 ha of new forests were created.

While these new forests planted in 2022 will ultimately form a valuable part of our national forest estate and will play an important role in sequestering carbon, providing timber and creating new habitats, last year’s level of planting is far below where we ultimately need to be. 

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I am confident that the new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme will mark a turning point for Irish forestry, and I believe that the Programme will unlock the potential for the sector to get back to planting 8,000ha per annum and more.

One of the trends we can see from this report is that in the years that most recently exceeded the 8,000ha target, farmers were planting the vast majority of new forests in Ireland.

The supports we have put in place for farmers in the new Forestry Programme, with 20 years of payments at rates increased by between 44% and 66%, will reignite forestry as a real option to be incorporated as part of the farm enterprise, and provide the platform for the forestry sector to work with farmers to plant the full range of forest types on offer in this Programme.

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The Minister added:

I am pleased to see that the proportional area of broadleaves afforested in 2022 represents 42% of all afforestation.

We have further incentivised native forests in the new Forestry Programme, with payments for farmers to plant native forests now at €1,100 per hectare, every year for 20 years, so we can expect the proportion of broadleaves to grow further in each year of the new Programme.

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Commenting on the processing of felling licences:

During 2022, felling licences were issued, for the thinning of 25,044 ha and the clearfelling of 23,009 ha.

This is the highest recorded volume of timber ever licenced for felling in a single year.

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In the private sector clearfell licences issued increased significantly from 8,278 ha in 2021 to 14,006 ha in 2022.

This increase is encouraging as it highlights active forest management from private forest owners and also allows the mobilisation of timber for harvested wood products including house building.

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Our focus is now on implementing the new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme.

This is the biggest and best funded Forestry Programme ever put in place by an Irish Government and I would encourage every farmer to look seriously at the very generous premium rates available for the forest type that best suits their land and their farm enterprise.

Minister Rabbitte welcomed the report:

For me, trees have always been the best preachers. Living close to an breathtaking forest, in their highest boughs the world rustles, while their roots stand firm.

When a tree is cut down you can read its whole history in the disk in the rings of its years, its scars, all the attacks withstood, the storms endured.

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And every farmer knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, and high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

We have a real opportunity here, for all custodians of the land, under the new Forestry Programme, to plant native trees.

Irelands primeval oak trees covered 80% of our island following the last Ice Age, but had all but disappeared by the foundation of the State.

Trees perform a hugely beneficial role in the life of our planet, by taking up carbon dioxide and giving us oxygen to breath; by cleaning the air, protecting our soil from erosion, protecting water from pollution, becoming habitats for so many other living beings, improving soil fertility and contributing to flood prevention, while also giving humans the beauty, solace and support that only a tree can give.

BENEFITS OF RESTORING THE OAK FOREST:

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restoring the natural ecosystems, giving home to a variety of birds, animals and insects, and reversing the loss of biodiversity.

offsetting carbon emissions: one tree can offset about 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year, up to 1/2 a tonne of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime. Planting trees can be a very effective way of mitigating the effects of climate change and helping the planet.

providing CO2 sequestration: through the biochemical process of photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere by trees and stored as carbon in the trunk, branches, leaves and roots. Scientists calculate that naturally restored forests can sequester (take out from the atmosphere) several tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year. (According to a report by Rewilding Britain).

protecting biodiversity: an oak tree supports hundreds of species of insects, birds and mammals! An oak woodland becomes a haven for wildlife, and a variety of ground flora and wildflowers can thrive here.

restoring the cultural link between people and woodlands: an oak tree is a symbol of strength and endurance and is one of Ireland’s most sacred trees, revered since the times of the Druids.

protecting water from pollution and protecting the soil from erosion.

 

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