Senator Fiona O’Loughlin says more needs to be done in terms of forestry licensing

Fianna Fail Senator Fiona O’Loughlin calls for more action on the issuing of forestry licenses in the Seanad.

Senator O’Loughlin said “The current situation within the forestry sector has been described by the industry as a scandal, and I think it is difficult to disagree with them on that.”

“I am aware that certain High Court decisions have changed the processing of forestry licence applications. And according to Minister McConalogue in a recent PQ response, it has resulted in approx. 80% of applications being screened in for a comprehensive ecological assessment, a situation for which his Department was not prepared for- in addition the number of appeals increased from 21 in 2017 to a peak of 582 in 2020. So of course, we would expect somewhat of a delay in the issuing of licences, however, at this point a resolution must be found”

“The statistics are stark. In 2016, the Department issued 6,731 felling licences, compared to just 1,717 in 2020. As of the 29th of October, 3,158 licences were issued compared to 2,592 for entirety of last year”

“This backlog is having real impacts on the ground – people cannot plant their land, farmers are struggling to manage their crops, and obviously they cannot harvest timber, and this lack of domestic supply is having a significant impact in the cost of wood and timber materials in Ireland, which has led to huge increases in the price of timber and that’s totally unsustainable. Fiona concluded “The Minister for housing Darragh O’Brien has secured record investment in housing, but we need every euro to stretch as far as possible and allowing timber prices to continue to skyrocket will dwindle our resources and will impact our ability to utilise this unprecedented housing budget to the fullest.”