DAFM Forest Service post-licence inspection reports on Coillte felling licences (2022)

AIE 22/520

All post licence inspection reports produced by the Forest Service of DAFM as a result of inspections carried out of the operations of Coillte felling licences in 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.

119 files released under AIE

Download files (zipped) here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1M2aATIH6-kN1kNmPa9m10wmNBvRc79cF/view?usp=sharing

AIE Request: NPWS forestry and felling licencing referrals received from the Forest Service during 2022 (for sample counties, Wicklow and Leitrim)

Includes “general observations from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in relation to forestry application referrals”

AIE-063-2022

Request for

  • a copy of all site reports and related information produced by conservation and
    ecological staff of the NPWS as a result of forestry and felling licencing referrals
    received from the Forest Service during 2022 for counties Wicklow and Leitrim that
    are logged on the DATS
  • a copy of all submissions made to the Forest Service in response to forestry and
    felling licencing referrals received during the same period for counties Wicklow and
    Leitrim. This can exclude no comment responses but include one example of a
    standard email response issued to the Forest Service for no comments.

Proposal to clearfell Sitka Spruce plantation at Conaghil & Kilcoosy townlands, Co. Leitrim

NPWS Recommendation: This proposed development should be screened for appropriate
assessment based on the considerations outlined above as per Regulation 42(1) of the 2011
Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations

Felling Licence Application TFL00769822 at Drumrane, Co. Leitrim

NPWS Recommendation: This proposed development should be screened for appropriate assessment based on the considerations outlined above as per Regulation 42(1) of the 2011 Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations.

Application for felling licence reference number TFL00801122 at Corrachuill Townland, Co. Leitrim.

The application provides insufficient information to be assessed properly with regard to its potential impacts on protected species (See Section 1):
o The application does not provide the information required and outlined in the Forest Harvesting and Environment Guidelines (2000).
o The application does not provide the information required and outlined in the Felling and Reforestation Policy (2017).
o The application does not provide information on the presence/absence of species protected under the Wildlife Act (1976, as amended) within the application site.
o The application site region is known to host Red squirrel, Common Buzzard and other passerine species.
o There are concerns for the stream and water course which flow by the boundary to the northern side of the application lands. This boundary forms a wooded historic Townland border.
o There is no reference or recognition to the historic infield boundaries within the plot 432
o There are concerns for the lakeshore and riparian Woodland/scrubland which occur around a significant portion of the plot 432. These have not been identified within the felling application documents submitted.
o Concerns for possible replanting of conifers along the northern stream side border of the lands.

Application for TFL felling licence reference number TFL 00806322 Kilnamaddyroe Townland, Co. Leitrim

The application provides insufficient information to be assessed properly with regard to its potential impacts on protected species (See Section 1).
o The application does not provide the information required and outlined in the Forest Harvesting and Environment Guidelines (2000).
o The application does not provide the information required and outlined in the Felling and Reforestation Policy (2017).
o The application does not provide information on the presence/absence of species protected under the Wildlife Act (1976, as amended) within the application site.
o The application area is now known to host Common Buzzard, Mistle Thrust and other passerine species

Application for TFL felling licence reference number TFL 00806522 Murhaun Townland, Co. Leitrim

Application for felling licence reference number TFL00807822 at Cornaroy Townland, Co. Leitrim.

Application for licence reference number TFL 00819822 Driny Townland, Co. Leitrim, clearfelling of .75 Ha of Sitka Spruce

Re: Proposal to clearfell broadleaves and Sitka Spruce at Askill, Co. Leitrim

Location; Derrinivver Co. Leitrim.
NPWS have reviewed this CN84099 file which has been re-submitted by FS Dept. Ecologist due to the area being recognised as a regionally important (non- designated) area for Hen Harrier.

Application: thinning and clearfell of 9.86 ha of Norwary spruce, Scots Pine and Sitka Spruce
Location: Athdown, Wicklow

Sample standard form NPWS reply (No Comment Letter) to Forest Service

General observations from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in relation to forestry application referrals

Certifying Inspectors for all Forestry Licences issued to date in 2022

Excluding a handful of Inspectors who have certified less than 10 licences the figures show that Inspectors certifying Coillte applications are, on average, certifying more than twice as many licences as their counterparts who deal with private licence applications over the same period. (160 compared with 70).

How is the difference explained?  

Are Coillte licence applications subject to less scrutiny?

DAFM has a dedicated unit for processing Coillte felling licences. Coillte felling licence applications are not processed on iFORIS and so do not undergo EIA Screening. Private licences do.

How many field visits are carried out by the dedicated Coillte unit (based in Johnstown Castle) prior to issuing licences? Is this part of the reason for the difference? Regional Inspectors may be taking more time in actually visiting the sites that they are issuing licences for?

AIE Request: WW12-FL0012 Sample Coillte Application for a Tree Felling Licence (111.49Ha) on Avonmore River

Location: Avondale,Balleese Wood,Ballinacarrig Upper,Ballytrasna,Corballis Lower,Kingston,Rockstown Lower,Ticlash,Timullin, Wicklow

Our Ref:             AIE request 20220236

Your Ref:         AIE Request: WW12-FL0012

I refer to the request you made, received on 18th July 2022, 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) for access to information held by Coillte relating to Information relating to felling licence application WW12-FL0012 to include inter alia;

  1. Date of Inspection by Environmental Officer prior to application submission
  2. Environmental Officers Comments on Water, Soil & Biodiversity
  3. Notifications / Consultations with local stakeholders
  4. An estimate of the expected residues and emissions (including carbon loss from soils)
  5. A description of the significant effects of the proposed activity on the environment;
  6. A description of the measures envisaged to prevent and/or reduce the effects
  7. An outline of the main alternatives to clearfell studied by the applicant
  8. Correspondence related to Coillte licences and the Waters of Life Project on the Avonmore

Summary of Decision

I made a decision on your request on 19/08/2022. Details of my decision on each point of information sought are as follows;

  1. Date of Inspection by Environmental Officer prior to application submission

We are granting access to this information.  Field inspection was carried out on 04.08.2021.

  • Environmental Officers Comments on Water, Soil & Biodiversity

As per Article 9(2)(c) access to this information is refused.  Article 9(2)(c) of the Regulations provides that a public authority may refuse to make environmental information available where the request concerns material in the course of completion or unfinished documents or data. The Aarhus Guide makes it clear that the words ‘in the course of completion’ suggest that the term refers to individual documents that are actively being worked on by the public authority. ‘In the course of completion’ suggests that the document will have more work done on it within some reasonable timeframe.  Furthermore, the Minister’s guidance explains; “Public authorities are not obliged to make available material that is incomplete or in preliminary or other draft form”. The above is further exemplified by decisions of the Commissioner in Mr X and Wicklow County Council and Association Y and Cork City Council.

To explain, Coillte’s site assessment comments are recorded on the data collector app with associated mapped features and uploaded to Coillte’s information system.  Each felling licence footprint is spatially reviewed on an individual basis by ecologists where comments from the field help to influence the compilation of the NIS (Natura Impact Statements). The NIS for this felling licence application is currently being compiled and will be available for public viewing when published by DAFM.  As per Article 9(2)(c) access to this information is refused on the same basis as point three.  This information is currently being compiled and will be publicly available once the completed NIS is published by DAFM via the felling licence viewer.

  • Notifications / consultations with local stakeholders

This information is not currently available, thus, as per Article 9(5) of the Regulations it is our duty to inform you of this.  DAFM send details of the felling licence application to the statutory bodies including NPWS, County Councils, Fisheries, etc. and those consultations will be available to view on the DAFM felling license viewer in due course. Coillte consults with stakeholders on our felling plans via the public map-viewer.  Further local consultation will take place where required prior to commencement of operations.

  • An estimate of the expected residues and emissions (including carbon loss from soils).

This information is not available, thus as per Article 9(5) of the Regulations it is our duty to inform you of this. In terms of emissions (including carbon loss from soils), emissions for individual harvesting sites are not estimated.

  1. A description of the significant effects of the proposed activity on the environment.

As per Article 9(2)(c) access to this information is refused on the same basis as point three. To explain, potential effects of the proposed activity will be assessed in the NIS which is currently being compiled and will be available to view on the Forestry Licence Viewer in due course.

  • A description of the measures envisaged to prevent and/or reduce the effects

As per Article 9(2)(c) access to this information is refused on the same basis as point three.  To explain, any potential mitigations will be recorded in the NIS which is currently being compiled and will be available to view on Forestry Licence Viewer in due course.

  • An outline of the main alternatives to clearfell studied by the applicant

This information is not available, thus as per Article 9(5) of the Regulations it is our duty to inform you of this.

  • Correspondence related to Coillte licences and the Waters of Life Project on the Avonmore

This information does not currently exist.

Public Interest Test (Article 10(3))

Furthermore, in accordance with Article 10(3) and 10(4), I have weighed the public interest served by disclosure against the interest served by refusal of your request under Article 9(2)(c). I have determined that the public interest would not be served by disclosing the information you request.

In Stichting Natuur en Milieu & Oes v College voor de toelating van gewasbeschermingsmiddelen en biociden the CJEU held; ‘Article 4 of the AIE Directive must be interpreted as meaning that the balancing exercise it prescribes between the public interest served by the disclosure of environmental information and the specific interest served by a refusal to disclose must be carried out in each individual case submitted to the competent authorities.

In M50 Skip Hire & Recycling Limited v Commissioner for Environmental Information, Mr Justice Heslin acknowledged that while it was noteworthy that no definition of ‘public interest’ is contained in either the AIE Regulations or in the AIE Directive, it was clear from the terms of Article 10(3) that a public authority enjoys a discretion insofar as weighing up, in each individual case, the public interest served by a disclosure against the interest served by refusal to disclose environmental information.

Considering the above, it is within Coillte’s discretion to weigh up the public interest served by disclosing the information sought with the grounds for refusal, namely the fact that it would involve the release of material currently in the course of completion.  While the public has a right to access information on the workings of public bodies and accountability of decision making, in this case the arguments against release far outweigh those in favour. Release of material currently in the course of completion would not be in the public interest as the material is uncompleted and is actively being worked on by Coillte.

Right of review

Under Article 11 of the AIE Regulations you have a right to request an internal review of this decision. An internal review involves a complete reconsideration of the matter by a member of the staff of Coillte, unconnected with the original decision, of the same or higher rank than the original decision-maker, who may affirm, vary or annul the original decision. 

If you wish to request an internal review, you can do so by writing to:

Company Secretary

Coillte

Dublin Road

Ms X and Coillte (27 July 2022)

https://www.ocei.ie/decisions/ms-x-and-coillte/index.xml

Whether Coillte was justified, under article 9(2)(a) of the AIE Regulations, in refusing access to information coming within the scope of 19 requests submitted by the appellant.

In  particular, note paras 16 and 17 : 

’16. ….. However, I would note that the exemption

in article 9(2)(a) of the AIE Regulations is not intended to endorse any failure by a public authority to comply with its duties of dissemination of environmental information under article 5 of the AIE Regulations and Article 7 of the AIE Directive. Furthermore, in every case, regard should be had to the purpose of the AIE Regime, as reflected in Recital 1 of the Preamble to the AIE Directive, which provides that “increased public access to environmental information and the dissemination of such information contribute to greater public awareness of environmental decision-making and, eventually, to a better environment.”


17. ….
Coillte stated that, accordingly, while it has a statutory remit it also operates under significant commercial pressures.

I accept that the significant increase in the level of AIE activity over the past year has presented challenges for a number of public authorities, including Coillte. However, the fact remains that the administration of the AIE Regulations is a statutory obligation which should be afforded as much weight as any other statutory obligation or the carrying out of other operational or commercial functions’.

also note

Mr G and DAFM (27 July 2022)

https://www.ocei.ie/decisions/right-to-know-and-radio-t/mr-g-and-department-of-ag/index.xml

(ODEI have assigned the incorrect reference on this link). 

In particular note para 12. 

12. The manner in which the Department has dealt with this request is unacceptable. The absence of any evidence to show that the Department meaningfully engaged with the request at either original decision stage, or at internal review stage is most disappointing. I acknowledge that renewed searches can sometimes reveal some additional information that may not have been found initially. However, I believe that there must have been significant deficiencies in the searches conducted by the Department in circumstances where no information whatsoever was found during searches at original decision and internal review stage, but a considerable amount of information was then found when my Office enquired about the matter. At that stage the appellant had paid a fee. The Department should review its procedures for searching for environmental information, and take account of the requirement under article 5(1)(b) of the AIE Regulations for it to make all reasonable efforts to maintain environmental information held by or for it in a manner that is readily reproducible and accessible’.

Water test results and photographs for LM02-FL0026

This felling licence resulted in Leitrim Co Co serving a Section 12 Water Pollution Notice on Coillte.

Section 12 Notices

Under Section 12 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 & 1990, the Local Authority may serve a notice in writing on any person having custody or control of polluting matter. This notice specifies measures to be taken by the person in order to prevent or control the pollution of the water concerned.

Furthermore a person who does not comply with the terms of a Section 12 Notice shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to prosecution by the Local Authority.

Notes on test results

There is limited value in one off tests, as you cannot tell what the situation was beforehand for particular parameters

Who selects the test parameters and why are particular parameters tested?  This looks like a good suite of parameters

The presence of E. coli in a drinking water sample usually indicates recent fecal contamination.  Boil notices are issued for  E. coli

Coliforms should be zero

pH is fine, but what was it before?

Hardness is linked to geology, would expect limestone in Leitrim tests

Colour should be zero in drinking water, so drinking water is cloudy

Conductivity looks elevated, but cannot say for sure as normal conductivity is unknown.  Conductivity is a good indicator, but requires regular testing to establish baseline

Lead.  Limits for lead in drinking water are very low (eg compared with copper).  You would not expect lead unless from lead pipes

Ammonia levels suggest recent organic pollution

Manganese is naturally occuring, but when high causes staining. New scientific studies show that high manganese levels in drinking water may have a harmful effect on the nervous system and brain development. Therefore, it is advised that you should not drink water with manganese levels above 120 µg/l

Analytical techniques

Colorimetry

Colorimetry is the use of coloured compounds to determine the concentration of a target chemical compound. It is one of the earliest and most reliable forms of water analysis and is used to test for a wide array of analytes

ICPMS

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is an analytical technique that can be used to measure elements at trace levels

Gravimetry

Gravimetric analysis is any procedure in which the masses of substances are measured in order to determine the composition of a sample

Acc. : Accredited Parameters by ISO/IEC 17025:2017

ISO/IEC 17025:2017 specifies the general requirements for the competence, impartiality and consistent operation of laboratories.

PVL – Parametric Value Limit as per EU (Drinking water) Regulations (SI 122 2014)

Details of applications for forestry licences currently under appeal

Those dissatisfied with a decision made on applications for licences for afforestation, tree felling, forest road works and aerial fertilistaion, can make an appeal to the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC).

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/6aed4-make-an-appeal-against-a-forestry-licence-decision/

Coillte Felling Licences

Suggested AIE request

Subject: AIE Request: Licence No. [ ] Application Details

I wish to request information under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations.

The information requested is:

1) Information relating to felling licence application Licence No. [ ] to include inter alia;

Map of the planned Harvest Route to the nearest Regional Road

Date of Inspection by Environmental Officer prior to application submission

Environmental Officers Comments on Water, Soil & Biodiversity

Proportion of Site affected by Windblow

Notifications / Consultations with local stakeholders

An estimate of the expected residues and emissions (including carbon loss from soils)

A description of the significant effects of the proposed activity on the environment;

A description of the measures envisaged to prevent and/or reduce the effects

An outline of the main alternatives studied by the applicant

I request that the information is provided in an electronic format by 1st August 2022.

Could you please provide an acknowledgement of this request and contact details for the party assigned to deal with it.

Can you please include my reference in the Subject Bar of any correspondence on this request.

Please note that the email for the response is email address

Kind regards,

send to info@coillte.ie