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Native Woodland Conservation Scheme

The Native Woodland Conservation (NWC) Scheme supports the restoration, conservation and enhancement of existing native woodlands.


Ireland’s native woodlands are a precious resource supporting a wide variety of ecosystem functions and services. They protect and enhance our biodiversity, soil and water quality, while mitigating the challenges that we face through climate change.

The NWC Scheme supports close-to-nature forest management that brings benefits for nature, water quality and climate. It creates opportunities for implementing traditional forms of woodland management that form part of Ireland’s countryside heritage, as well as for the provision of local amenities and opportunities for woodland and environmental education.

Many of Ireland’s native woodlands have been under-managed. The NWC Scheme provides support to woodland owners to tackle such under-management, and to promote the sustainability of forest and woodland habitats through appropriate restoration measures.

Eligible operations

Conservation projects typically involve steps such as the removal of individual or groups of non-native trees, removal of invasive exotics and protection against deer or livestock.

Support will be available for the following operations:

  • Project development and management, including the preparation of the site-specific Native Woodland Plan
  • The purchase of suitable native planting stock
  • Ground preparation works
  • Forest protection (fencing, tree guards and other measures)
  • The clearance of invasive species such as laurel and rhododendron, using appropriate methods
  • The felling and removal of non-native trees. In situations where marketable quantities of wood may be realised from tree felling (including for the owner’s own use, or for use by a third party but not sold), DAFM may seek details regarding quantities and values involved. DAFM may reduce the grant payable accordingly.
  • Woodland rejuvenation works, including understorey and coupe planting, and works to facilitate natural regeneration (e.g. scarification)
  • Works to enhance the ecological value of woodland edges and open spaces
  • Maintenance works, including vegetation management, filling-in and respacing (e.g. of dense natural regeneration), follow-up operations regarding areas cleared of invasive species
  • Other related operations, as deemed appropriate and as approved by DAFM

Grant rates

Owner status Maximum grant (€/ha) Maximum 1st grant (€/ha) Maximum 2nd grant (€/ha) Payment for Ecosystem Services (€/ha)
Private applicant €6,000 €4,500 €1,500 PES 1: €500/ha/yr for 7 years
PES 4: €150/ha/yr for 7 years
(see below)
Public applicant €3,000 €3,000 n/a  n/a 
  • Additional fencing allowance is capped at €18/m up to €2,880/ha (IS 436) or €14/m up to €2,100/ha (non-IS 436).
  • The NWC Scheme is a cost-based scheme (exclusive of VAT) up to these maximum grant rates
  • A Felling Licence application must accompany the grant application, where appropriate.


DAFM will target funding on those projects with a high ecological priority under the NWC Scheme. Therefore, the project must satisfy at least one of the following qualifying criteria:

  • An 'ancient woodland' site, i.e. a site that has been under continuous woodland / forest cover since 1650.
  • A woodland designated for conservation purposes under European and / or national legislation, due to its native woodland type / habitat (e.g. SACs, NHAs and pNHAs).
  • An undesignated woodland comprising woodland type(s) listed under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive.
  • An 'old woodland' site, i.e. a site that has been under continuous woodland / forest cover since the 1830s.
  • A woodland adjoining an aquatic zone within an area of heightened sensitivity regarding water, where native woodland restoration will contribute to the protection of water quality and aquatic habitats and species.
  • A woodland adjoining or within 2 km of a woodland designated for conservation purposes under European and / or national legislation, due to its native woodland type / habitat.
  • A woodland adjoining or within 2 km of a non-woodland habitat designated for conservation purposes under European and / or national legislation.
  • A project involving the ecologically compatible development of a native woodland amenity for public access and recreation, woodland interpretation and environmental education.

The following project proposals will not be eligible for funding under the NWC Scheme:

  • Where non-native trees account for more than one third of the upper canopy
  • If work of a similar nature was previously undertaken with DAFM grant aid within the previous 15 years
  • Emergent woodland project proposals (see Forest Type 5 - Emergent Forests)
  • The reforestation of clearfelled conifer stands with native woodland

Payments for Ecosystem Services

Private applicants under the NWC Scheme may be eligible for an annual Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) of €500/ha/yr and €150/ha/yr payable for a 7-year period.

PES 1 Native Woodland Conservation at €500/ha/yr is applicable to existing non-grant aided forests and PES 4 Environmental Enhancement at €150/ha/yr applies where a high ecological priority has been identified.

The continuation of this payment during the 7-year period is subject to the ongoing implementation of the approved Native Woodland Plan and adherence to the conditions of approval.

The Payments for Ecosystem Services are aimed at maintaining and improving the environmental stability and ecosystem services of forests, where their protective and ecological role is of public interest and where the cost of the associated maintenance and improvement measures exceeds the income from those forests.

Ecosystem services include carbon sequestration, the provision of fuelwood, the protection of water and soil, forest genetic resource, pest and disease resilience, climate change regulation, floodwater control, pollination services, the provision of amenity and educational services, and the underpinning of historical and cultural heritage and folklore.


  • Individuals must be over 18 years of age and hold a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN). Companies must provide their company registration details (CRO number).
  • Applicants must be the owner, leaseholder or joint manager of the land at the time of the application. Exceptions to this rule will only apply where:
    • the owner is deceased, and their legal representative submits the application; or
    • the owner consents in writing to the submission of the application in the name of a designated third party.
  • Applicants must provide documentary evidence of ownership and of leasing or joint management where relevant if requested.

Application procedure

The Native Woodland Plan must be prepared jointly by a NWC Scheme Forester (List of Registered Foresters, PDF) and a NWC Scheme ecologist, in consultation with the applicant.

Relevant publication

Further information