BirdWatch Ireland Submission to the draft Forest Strategy and Draft Forest Strategy Implementation Plan

Key Messages


1. Since 2014, the Forestry programme 2014-2022 has sanctioned the planting of 13,719 hectares or 14.1% of forestry planted nationally (Coillte and private planting) in hotspots for 6 of our most threatened breeding waders in Ireland.

2. Since 2014, the Forestry programme 2014-2022 has sanctioned the planting of 6,538
hectares or 6.7% of forestry nationally (Coillte and private planting) in hotspots important
for 28 of our red and amber listed birds of conservation concern.

3. BirdWatch Ireland mapping shows that since 1990 78,606 or 14.6% of total forestry planted
has been in breeding wader hotspots and 37,036 or 6.7% of total forestry planted in farmland
bird hotspots.

4. BirdWatch Ireland mapping shows that the total forestry replanted since 2014, within Breeding Hen Harrier SPAs is 12,382 [hectare] or 12.7% despite there being a moratorium on planting in place in that time period.

5. This is evidence that Ireland is in breach of the Birds Directive and the conditions of the European Commission State Aid Decision granting consent for the provision of €200 million to fund the 2014 Forestry Programme including:
a. Projects must be undertaken in compliance with national and EU legislation (e.g. several articles of the Birds Directive).
b. The condition to avoid planting on environmentally sensitive sites and
c. The inappropriate afforestation of sensitive habitats such as peat lands and wetlands will be avoided, as well as the negative effects on areas of high ecological value including areas under high natural value farming.

6. A disproportionate amount of forestry is being planted in important areas for birds in the wider countryside. There are likely several reasons for this.
a. There is no strategic planning of afforestation in Ireland
b. There is no ornithological assessment of sites/applications being proposed for afforestation.
c. The Land Types for Afforestation document which provides guidance on the land which can be planted, is potentially a driver of loss of Annex 1 habitat and habitat for birds and other biodiversity
d. The payments and tax-free status of afforestation premia are lucrative. No agri-environment scheme which would pay farmers to continue to farm for threatened bird species can compete. This creates the risk that even more areas of land will be opened up for afforestation further threatening bird species.

7. The draft Forestry Implementation plan for 2023-2030 which is underpinned by an almost 7-fold increase in funding does not contain any evident changes in individual environmental assessment of afforestation applications to account for the presence or absence of birds on a site proposed for afforestation compared to the 2014-2022 Forestry Programme. It is clear therefore that we can expect further losses of habitat important for breeding waders and other farmland birds unless changes are made.


8. The environmental assessments of the draft Forestry Programme fail to consider the impacts on the different measures on red and amber listed birds in the wider countryside. There is also woefully inadequate assessment of Annex 1 bird species in the wider countrywide (e.g. geese and swans) in breach of Article 6.3 of the Habitats Directive and various European Court of Justice rulings. The Article 12 reporting research only extracted data relating to Annex 1 species that are qualifying interests of an SPA are considered in this AA report and what is reported is incorrect. Also unclear as to why the BoCCI status of Curlew, a red listed
species for breeding and wintering has N/A status associated with Table 4 in the NIS. The BoCCI status for a range of red and amber listed species is listed as N/A with no rationale as to why. These should be listed.


9. The analysis of the effects of the Programme on Annex 1 species is extremely limited. It focuses in on Annex 1 species with ‘bad’ or ‘inadequate’ status that are already identified as being affected by forestry activities (according to Article 12 code)

10. Species assessments in NIS. The NIS only focuses on Merlin and Hen Harrier and fails to assess impacts on a range of other Annex 1 species or the conservation interests of the SPAs.


11. Incombination assessment of other plans and programmes is extremely general. For example the statement that the IFSIP is ‘broadly in line with the EU biodiversity Strategy’. Afforestation is a significant pressure and threat to a range of threatened bird species whose populations must be restored. Assessment fails to consider this.

12. The cumulative impacts of afforestation, intensification of agriculture, peat cutting, wind farm development etc have not been adequately considered in the environmental assessments of the draft Forestry Programme.

13. It is of serious concern to us that a farmer signed up to an ACRES contract can end that contract to afforest his/her land and not be subject to penalties.

14. The fact that a farmer can receive the Basic Payment which requires adherence to Article Article 3(1), Article 3(2)(b), Article 4 (1),(2), and (4) covering legal protection for birds and a requirement to protect birds in the wider countryside and receive an afforestation payment which wipes out habitat for birds is discordant and an abuse of taxpayers money. Taxpayers are paying on the double for both the protection of habitats and their destruction. This must change.


15. Unless afforestation is planned strategically with clear objectives and processes is put in place to avoid afforestation in important areas for birds, breeding waders in particular could be wiped out as a result of the state’s forestry programme to 2030.

Section 12 Water Pollution Notices – forestry activities in Leitrim – 2022

AIE Request

For the period 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022 (both dates inclusive) please provide, by email, a copy of all Notices served under Section 12 of the Local Government (Water Pollution)  Act 1977 in relation to forestry activities. (Other non-forestry related  Section 12 Notices are not requested) 

Euroforest Timber Ltd

Water pollution at Attimanus, Kilnagross, Leitrim

Coillte

Water pollution at Tullywana, Gubnaveagh, Leitrim (LM09-FL0043)

Coillte

Water pollution at Crumpaun, Leitrim (LM01-FL0010 & LM01-FL0011)

The Yield Class or Anticipated Yield Class of all compartments of Coillte’s forest estate

AIE Request 20220618

The yield class of timber is a measurement of increment (the amount of solid stem wood added to an area of woodland) in cubic meters per hectare per year (m3/ha/yr).

AIE Request: The Yield Class or Anticipated Yield Class of all compartments of Coillte’s forest estate.

I wish to receive the information in GIS format (ERSI Shapefiles with attribute data including the Yield Class or Anticipated Yield Class, Forest Code, Forest Name and Property Name.”

Appeal to OCEI

Post licence inspection reports of Coillte sites – October 2022

AIE 22/2519 Internal Review Decision

1 Nov 2022

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to request information under the provisions of  EU Directive 2003/4/EC ‘Access to Environmental Information’, “The AEI Directive”; and SI 133/2007 European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007, as amended, “The Regulations” – relating to Ireland’s implementation of the AEI directive.

The information requested is:  

1.         The date of all post licence inspections carried out in October 2022 by the Forest Service of DAFM of the operations of Coillte felling licences.

2.         All post licence inspection reports produced / completed in October 2022 by the Forest Service of DAFM as a result of inspections carried out of the operations of Coillte felling licences. (This includes reports based on inspections that were carried out prior to October 2022)

            The information to include any relevant correspondence and subsequent environmental information as a result of follow ups on the inspections, including surveys, analysis, etc.

Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Schedule of Records

Notes:

21 inspections with only 10 requiring No Action.

3 inspections resulted in Amber warning ratings.

CE03-FL0214 Operations to cease with immediate effect due to silt and sediment entering an EPA stream at the crossing point on the main extraction route. The applicant and DAFM to arrange on-site meeting to establish corrective actions.

Coillte Operational monitoring records (CK November 2021)

AIE Request

Note CK = Records for Cork

Note: there was an incident in Cork in November 2021 which resulted in Coillte being prosecuted by IFI

I refer to your request under the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2018 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007, S.I. No. 662 of 2011, S.I. 615 of 2014 and S.I. No. 309 of 2018) (hereafter referred to as the AIE Regulations), received on 12th December 2022, for access to information held by Coillte as follows


I would like to receive an electronic copy of all Operational Monitoring Records for works in Coillte’s Coillte forests with the prefix CK during the month of November 2021. Please include details of the relevant licences.


Summary of Decision


I made a final decision on the Request on 11.01.2023. I have identified thirteen records which are relevant to your request, and I have decided to refuse access to four of these records, having regard to the provisions of Articles 9(1)(a), 9(1)(c) and 9(2)(c) of the AIE Regulations. To explain, the records identified relate to active harvesting sites. I have set out in further detail, at Part 3 of this letter, the reasons for refusing your AIE request.

I am granting access to the following records, subject to payment of applicable charges as set out below (invoice attached) –
CK14-H0049, CK12-H0084, CK28-H0009, CK20-H0012, CK06-H0070, CK15-H0065, CK04-H0107, CK04-H0072 and CK04-H0110.


I am refusing access to the following records –
CK01-H0040, CK15-H0080, CK26-H0017 and CK26-H0020

NOTE: Appealed on costs grounds (Euro 100 fee for records)

Monthly inspections by DAFM of active Coillte sites (Oct 2022)

AIE 22/2529

Note: especially CK04-FL0124, details below

State aid/Ireland, Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020: Ireland


SA. 39783 (2014/N) – IRL Afforestation and Creation of Woodlands

The total budget for the scheme is 199,486,744 EUR.

The beneficiaries of the Programme are both public and private actors, including SMEs and large companies. A total estimate of up to 25,000 beneficiaries will apply for the Programme.

The scheme aims to provide support for afforestation, in the form of establishment cost and 15 annual premium payments

This scheme will be primarily targeted at private land-holders.

Support will take the form of grants towards the cost of establishment and annual premiums for a period of 12 years, in order to cover the costs of agricultural income foregone and maintenance

The eligible operations include ground preparation, cost of plants, planting, fertiliser, management of competing vegetation, filling-in planting, shaping of broadleaves, mapping, fencing and tree protection, establishment of firebreaks,
management and supervision and other related operations deemed appropriate by the Forest Service.

The land will remain under forestry indefinitely and therefore is subject to a re-planting obligation.

Native Woodland Establishment Scheme

The aim of Native Woodland Establishment Scheme is to support the establishment of new native woodlands on ‘green field’ sites, providing opportunities to protect and expand Ireland’s native woodland resource and its associated biodiversity.

The scheme provides financial support for farmers and other landholders.

Support will take the form of grants towards the cost of establishment and annual premiums for a period of 12 years, in order to cover the costs of agricultural income foregone and maintenance.

The inappropriate afforestation of sensitive habitats such as peat lands and wetlands will be avoided, as well as the negative effects on areas of high ecological value including areas under high natural value farming

The aid application for the schemes under this Programme will include the applicant’s name and the size of the undertaking, a description of the project or activity, including its location and start and end dates, the amount of aid needed to carry it out and the eligible costs. In the case of large companies, a counterfactual scenario will be provided and a credibility check performed.

In accordance with point 505 of the Guidelines, aid may be granted to public and private land-holders and their associations. This measure will be primarily targeted at private land-holders.

In the case of state-owned land, aid may be granted if the body managing such land is a private body or municipality in
accordance with point 506 of the Guidelines* (*Part II, Chapter 2 of the European Union Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas 2014 to 2020 10 (hereinafter “the Guidelines”)

signed off by

For the Commission
Phil HOGAN
Member of the Commission