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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).
  • 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, named after the basic soil type:

  • 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 then identifies the associated woodland type (as set out above, in brackets) and the relevant species mix and planting pattern to promote it, through restoration planting or reforestation.

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: