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Native Woodland Conservation Scheme

Restoring Ireland’s native woodland resource and associated biodiversity.

The Scheme prioritises sites of high ecological significance (included ancient woodlands and designated areas such as Special Areas of Conservation) and also sites where native woodland restoration will 'deliver' benefits regarding the protection of watercourses and aquatic habitats. 

Typical projects under the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme might include the restoration of existing native woodland (e.g. the removal of invasive species such as rhododendron, which can destroy native woodland ecosystems); the conversion of existing conifer forests to native woodland, particularly on sites beside sensitive watercourses, and the protection and management of existing 'scrub' to capitalise on its ecological value as emerging native woodland.

Projects under NWS Conservation will typically include the following approaches:

  • Existing ‘high forest’ native woodland requiring appropriate restorative management (e.g. removal of individual or groups of non-natives, removal of invasive exotics, protection against deer and/or livestock, underplanting, promotion of native species natural regeneration).
  • The conversion of existing conifer forest to native woodland (e.g. the removal of uniform Sitka spruce plantation adjoining a sensitive watercourse, deer fencing, and reforestation with native woodland, through planting and / or natural regeneration).
  • Existing scrub constituting emergent woodland which is predominantly native (e.g. protective fencing, removal of non-natives and invasive exotics, and respacing).

Grant Rates (€/ha)

Scheme category1st grant (€/ha)2nd grant (€/ha)Total grant (€/ha)
High forest 3,800 1,200 5,000
Emergent woodland 2,500 n/a 2,500

Premium Rates (€/ha)

Grant/Premium Category (GPC)Annual premium (€/ha)Duration (years)
Private woodland owner 350 7
Public woodland owner n/a n/a

Native Woodland Scheme Framework

The purpose of the Native Woodland Scheme Framework (PDF) is to identify, at pre-application stage, the most appropriate native woodland type to promote onsite. The NWS Forester and the NWS Ecologist appraises the site in terms of its location, soil and main habitats and vegetation, and matches it to one of five scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Podzols (Oak-Birch-Holly Woodland)
  • Scenario 2: Brown Podzolics (Oak-Birch-Holly with Hazel Woodland)
  • Scenario 3: Brown Earths (Oak-Ash-Hazel Woodland)
  • Scenario 4: Gleys (Alder-Oak-Ash Woodland)
  • Scenario 5: Highly Modified Peat & Peaty Podzols (Pioneer Birch Woodland)

The framework identifies the natural woodland type (as set out above, in brackets) most suited to the site. A management plan is then prepared by a participating forester and ecologist and is submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) for approval.

Elegible operations

  • Preparation of a site-specific Native Woodland Plan by a NWS Ecologist and NWS Forester
  • Purchase of suitable native planting stock
  • Ground preparation, where appropriate (e.g. light scarification to facilitate natural regeneration)
  • Forest protection (fencing, tree guards and other measures)
  • Clearance of invasive species such as laurel and rhododendron
  • Costs associated with non-commercial tree felling, where appropriate
  • Woodland rejuvenation (including understorey and coupe planting, regeneration works and filling-in)
  • Maintenance (including vegetation management)
  • Woodland edge management
  • Maintenance of open spaces, rides and glades
  • Re-spacing
  • The restoration of former coppice or coppice-with-standards woodland to active coppice management; and other related operations, where appropriate

Once Financial Approval is granted, work can commence in line with the management plan details and approval conditions. The First Grant is  paid at year 1 following completion of works, submission of Form 2 and inspection by DAFM. The Second Grant is payable at year four in respect of required maintenance work and subject to further inspection.

Important notes:

  • Any scenario selected must reflect the location and soil and the main habitats and vegetation (as described in the NWS Framework). Mismatch will result in the applications being returned for adjustment and resubmission.
  • Downy birch forms part of several planting mixtures set out in the Framework. From 2019, the use of improved 'qualified' downy birch planting stock is required.
  • Due to Ash Dieback Disease, ash is excluded from the NWS Framework.
  • The fencing allowances available under the Afforestation Grant & Premium Scheme also apply to NWS Conservation. If applying for deer fencing, evidence is required showing unsustainable levels of deer damage within the woodland (see the NWS Conservation Form 1 below for details).

Relevant publications: