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The Native Tree Area Scheme

The Native Tree Area Scheme

Padraic O’Leary, Teagasc Forestry Advisor, writes about The Native Tree Area Scheme (NTAS), designed to promote afforestation in Ireland by supporting the creation of native forests.

What is the Native Tree Area Scheme?

It offers incentives for establishing small native forests on farmed land. This scheme will not require an afforestation licence, subject to the terms and conditions of the NTA scheme.

NTA1 and NTA2 refer to two different options or ‘interventions’ available to applicants:

  • NTA1 involves the creation of small native It focuses on supporting the establishment of new native forests on farmed land.
  • NTA2 involves the creation of native forests for water It is aimed at creating new native forests, along with undisturbed water set-backs to protect and enhance water quality and aquatic ecosystems.

This intervention is particularly focused on addressing water-related environmental priorities.

Who is eligible to apply?

Eligibility is to open farmers and non-farmers of lands used for farming purposes, including individuals aged 18 or over with a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN). Companies can also apply, providing their company registration details.

It’s essential that the land is currently used for farming, (farming can be any land use such as grazing, cutting silage, tillage or horticulture) and ownership should be free of constraints like joint grazing rights or right of way.

What financial supports are available for NTAS?

The Native Tree Area Scheme (NTAS) supports vary based on the intervention chosen (NTA1 or NTA2), the area planted, and subject to full adherence to scheme requirements. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Establishing a native forest under NTA1 can provide landowners with an establishment grant of €6,744 per hectare.
  • NTA2 – Under NTA2, approved land- owners can receive a similar establishment and shelter grants of €6,744 per hectare.

In addition, an annual premium of €2,206 per hectare for up to 10 years is available for approved applicants, resulting in a potential total premium of €22,060 per hectare. The annual premium for NTA2 amounts to €2,284 per hectare, payable for up to 10 years, totalling a potential premium of €22,840 per hectare.

How do you apply?

Applications must be carried out through a registered forester who will prepare and submit your application through the Department of Agriculture online application system. Applications must meet the mapping standards as outlined in the Forestry Standards Manual.

The NTA scheme is outside the general afforestation programme  and does not require an afforestation licence, so the applications are being processed relatively quickly.

Who does the work?

The initial screening for land eligibility and consultation can be done with your local Teagasc forestry advisor. However, the on-site assessment and planning is handled by a registered forester, chosen by the applicant.

Execution of planting and fencing can be carried out by the landowner as long as scheme standards and requirements are reached. Alternatively, the registered forester can arrange to have this work carried out for you.

What tree species are planted?

The following tree species are considered acceptable for planting under the scheme:

  • Alder (Alnus glutinosa).
  • Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo).
  • Silver birch (Betula pendula).
  • Downy birch (Betula pubescens).
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana).
  • Holly (Ilex aquifolium).
  • Crab apple (Malus sylvestris).
  • Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).
  • Black poplar (Populus nigra).
  • Aspen (Populus tremula).
  • Wild cherry (Prunus avium).
  • Bird cherry (Prunus padus).
  • Sessile oak (Quercus petraea).
  • Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur).
  • Goat willow (Salix caprea).
  • Grey willow (Salix cinerea).
  • Bay willow (Salix pentandra).
  • English whitebeam (Sorbus an- glica).
  • Whitebeam (Sorbus aria).
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).
  • Irish whitebeam (Sorbus Hibernica).

What are the NTA scenarios?

Scenario 1 – dry mineral soil (e.g. podzols, brown podzols and brown earths).

Planting mixture – oak (30%), birch (30%) Scots pine (25%) and other native species (15%. Oak to be planted in predominantly pure groups, with birch scattered intimately throughout. Scots pine planted in small, pure, groups, focusing on parts of the plot and away from any watercourses adjoining or crossing the plot. The remain- der of the birch to be planted in pure groups.

Scenario 2 – wet mineral soil (e.g. gleys)

Planting mixture – alder (50%), birch (30%), oak (15%) and other native species (5%). Alder and birch may be planted in pure groups (30 to 40 trees), with groups interspersed alternately. Oak may be planted in small pure groups, focusing on the dryer parts of the plot.

Is this a permanent land use change?

Yes, forests established under NTAs are protected by the Forestry Act 2014, making it a permanent land use change.

What are the restrictions on the planting layout?

A minimum tree planting spacing of 3m x 3m is required, giving a planting density of 1,100 trees per hectare. Where the installation of deer shelters is necessary a minimum tree spacing of 4m X 4m is required giving a planting density of 465 trees per hectare.

  • NTA1: the tree planting area must not be less than 0.1 hectare and not greater than 1.0 hectare. The area may consist of multiple smaller blocks (such as the corners of fields) provided these smaller blocks are not less than 0.1 hectare. All parcels must be 20m or greater in width.
  • NTA2: the overall forest width, which represents the payment area width must be not less than 20m and not greater than 24m in width. A 10m to 13m water setback must be created with tree planting not exceeding 20% of the area of the setback. No trees to be planted within 2m of the aquatic feature. NTA2 must be no greater than one hectare.

When does payment occur?

Payments, including grants and annual premiums, are made at different stages of the process. Grants will be paid in two instalments. The first instalment may be claimed immediately after successful planting. The second instalment can be claimed at least four years after planting has been completed. Premiums are claimed annually over the 10 years of the scheme.

The Teagasc Forestry team have organised a nationwide series of one-to-one clinics taking place throughout January and early February 2024. These one-to-one consultations will be of benefit to those who are considering forestry. Find your local One-to-One Clinic on Forest Creation here

This article was first published in Todays Farm, read more from Today's Farm - January/February 2024 here