Minister Hackett opens Native Tree Area Scheme under Ireland’s new Forestry Programme 2023-2027

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, has today announced the opening of the Native Tree Area Scheme under Ireland’s new 2023-2027 Forestry Programme.

The Minister stated:

“I am delighted to announce the opening of the Native Tree Area Scheme today here at Avondale House, the home of Irish forestry. This scheme will allow farmers to plant up to a hectare of native woodland without the need for a licence, or up to two hectares if they have a suitable watercourse along which to plant a riparian small-scale native woodland. This is something I have worked hard to introduce as part of the new Forestry Programme, and it will deliver on the Programme for Government commitment to incentivise small-scale tree-planting to help to re-engage farmers with forestry. Key to the success of increasing afforestation rates is to build confidence among farmers of the benefits of forestry as a viable option to complement their existing farm enterprises.

The Minister confirmed that, in line with the provisions of the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry Act 2022, her Department has provided for the scheme by Regulation, which was signed into law on the 28th September 2023. She also confirmed that two different options will be available to applicants:

• NTA 1 – Creation of Small Native Forests

• NTA 2 – Creation of Native Forests for Water Protection

The extent of the area that can be created under this Scheme is limited to 2 hectares per farm holding for the duration of the scheme. Both farmers and non-farmers may avail of support under the scheme. Support will take the form of an establishment grant and annual premium payments over a ten-year period, totalling €22,060 per hectare for NTA 1 and €22,840 per hectare for NTA 2.

The Minister added:

“The scheme was finalised following the completion of a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. Eligibility criteria are incorporated into the scheme to ensure that all tree planting works are undertaken in a legally compliant and sustainable manner.”

The Minister emphasised:

“A scheme eligibility map has been prepared, detailing the location of approximately 3.1 million hectares of land that will be eligible to join the scheme. Not all agricultural land was deemed to be eligible for the NTAS due to the land not being suited to native forest establishment (such as areas at high elevation) or the presence of environmental sensitivities (such as NATURA 2000 designated areas). If someone who is interested in the Native Tree Area Scheme finds that their land isn’t eligible for tree planting without a licence, I would encourage them to talk to Teagasc or their registered forester about the options that are open to them through the Forestry Programme under the normal licensing process.”

The Minister concluded:

“This scheme has been designed to have a straightforward approval process, which means that it is now open for new native forests to be planted before the end of 2023 under this scheme. I look forward to significant take-up on farms across the country over the coming months.”

Note to the Editor:

The Native Tree Area Scheme (NTAS) has been designed to avoid or minimise potential impacts from the outset using the best available information and by applying pre-emptive measures. These generic measures are mandatory in nature for all areas to be included in the Scheme.

The input of foresters registered with the Department will be required to ensure the eligibility criteria associated with scheme Terms and Conditions are adhered to. The successful establishment of these native forests will require the know-how of registered foresters to ensure these forests are correctly sited and managed to free-growing stage.

To allow for the creation of forests without an afforestation licence, changes were introduced as part of the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022. The changes allow the Minister to make Regulations to facilitate small-scale planting of native forests as part of a scheme by removing the requirement for an afforestation licence.

Scheme Details are available here

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