Deforestation is defined in the Forestry Act 2014 as “the conversion of a forest into land that is not a forest”.
There is obvious need to avoid deforestation in relation to economic and social considerations and environmental considerations such as carbon, landscape and amenity. Reforestation after felling is essential to prevent deforestation, which would otherwise counteract the benefits of Ireland’s afforestation programme.
Notwithstanding this policy to maintain forest cover, there are circumstances where deforestation can occur and will be permitted.
Felling licence applications proposing the permanent removal of trees and forests are assessed on a case-by-case basis and considered on their own individual merit. The permanent removal of trees and forests is permitted in certain circumstances. Mitigating measures form part of the decision-making process, including the afforestation of alternative lands and / or the refunding of grant and premium payments already paid by the Forest Service.
The table below summarises the six main scenarios where tree removal is permitted, and whether or not alternative afforestation and / or the repayment of grants and premiums are generally required. Note that Scenarios 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 require the submission of a felling licence. Tree felling shall not commence until the Forest Service notifies the applicant that the permanent removal of trees is licensed.
|Scenarios||Felling licence application required?||Alternative afforestation required? (See Note 1)||Refunding of grant & premiums required? (See Note 2)|
|1. Overriding environmental considerations (e.g. to protect habitats and species listed as qualifying interests within SACs and SPAs)||Yes||No||No|
|2. Supporting renewable energy and energy security (e.g. windfarm installation)||Yes||See Table 6 of PDF listed below||See Table 6 of PDF listed below|
|3. Commercial development (e.g. development of an industrial park)||Yes||Yes (see Note 3)||Yes|
|4. Conversion to agricultural land (see Note 4)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|5. Public utilities (e.g. erection of an electricity power line)||No (see Note 5)||No||Yes|
|6. Other land use change (may be considered on a case-by-case basis, on application)||Yes||Case-by-case||Case-by-case|
Note 1 If ‘YES’, the alternative site must be of an area equivalent in size. Section 5.7 of the PDF listed below sets out the procedures required. If the forest area proposed for permanent removal is still in receipt of premiums and / or is still in contract under the Afforestation Grant & Premium Scheme, the alternative site may be eligible under the Afforestation Grant & Premium Scheme.
Note 2 If ‘YES’, the refunding of any afforestation grant and premiums already paid out by the Forest Service is required if the forest area proposed for permanent removal is still in receipt of premiums and / or is still in contract under the Afforestation Grant & Premium Scheme. In addition, if premiums are still being paid, premium payments on the area will cease.
Note 3 Alternative afforestation is required except in relation to small community-focused projects and for the purpose of building a home for an immediate family member – see Section 5.4 of the PDF listed below for details.
Note 4 The Forest Service may consider conversion to agricultural land in limited instances, having regard to the scale and character of the area proposed for deforestation.
Note 5 Exemptions may apply to various public authorities from the requirement to apply for a Felling Licence – See Section 5.6 of the PDF listed below.