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The Woodland Improvement Scheme - supporting sustainable woodland enhancement

The Woodland Improvement Scheme - supporting sustainable woodland enhancement

Ireland's forests are key ecosystems that hold great potential for both economic growth and environmental enhancement.

Understanding the importance of forest management in sustaining these ecosystems and availing of the recently launched DAFM Woodland Improvement Scheme provides opportunities for forest owners to manage and enhance their resource. In this article, Teagasc Forestry Advisor, Padraic O’Leary explains the supports available under the five scheme elements.

Woodland Improvement Scheme

A transformative narrative is unfolding with the recent launch of the Woodland Improvement Scheme, providing important support measures for forest owners under the new DAFM Forestry Programme 2023-2027. The Woodland Improvement Scheme provides forest owners with a range of financial support options to sustainably manage their forests to fulfil current and future demands for wood and non-wood products, while in tandem delivering on the provision of ecosystem services such as biodiversity, soil and water protection.

For example, owners of broadleaf or broadleaf/conifer mixed forests now have the opportunity to apply for support specifically tailored to thinning and tending. Qualifying owners of grant-aided agroforestry may avail of important maintenance supports. There are also supports for forest owners, in suitable forests, to transition from traditional even-aged forest management to more sustainable, closer-to-nature forestry practices, aligning with Ireland's commitment to ecological well-being. The Woodland Improvement Scheme is therefore designed not just for financial support, but also with a broader vision of enhanced environmental benefits.

Woodland Improvement Scheme elements

Forest owners can choose from five different elements within the Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS), tailoring interventions to meet their unique needs:

WIS Element 1 - Thinning and Tending

This Element provides two thinning interventions for broadleaf and broadleaf/conifer mixed forests regardless of whether or not they are grant aided, where the trees have been planted post-1983.  For more information on the Thinning and Tending element, click here.

WIS Element 2 - Agroforestry Maintenance

This element provides funding for the maintenance of grant-aided existing agroforests. Learn more here.

WIS Element 3 - Continuous Cover Forestry

This element provides funding for the conversion of existing forests to Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) over a 12-year transitional period. In addition, applicants may also be eligible for a new annual Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) premium. For more on Continuous Cover Forestry, visit here.

WIS Element 4 - Coppice and Coppice with Standards

This element provides funding for conversion of existing forests to coppice and coppice with standards. Successful applicants are eligible for a WIS payment. For more information on this element, click here.

WIS Element 5 - Seed Stand Management

This element supports the sustainable use and conservation of Ireland’s forest genetic resource, by improving the management and conservation of registered broadleaf and conifer Seed Stands so as to increase the frequency, quality and volume of commercial seed production and collection. In addition, applicants may also be eligible for a new annual Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) premium. More information on Element 5 is available here.

Maximum Grant Levels and Premium Payments

The Woodland Improvement Scheme offers fixed grants per treated hectare, reaching €1,200 for various elements. Premium payments for ecosystem services, such as those arising from Continuous Cover Forestry and Seed Stand Management, offer additional incentive. This provides a support framework for enhancing existing woodlands through sustainable forest management practices.

Support measureFixed grant (€/ha)

Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES)

(€/ha/year, payable for 7 years)

WIS Element 1 - Thinning and Tending (two interventions)     €1,200/intervention   n/a
WIS Element 2 - Agroforestry Maintenance  €1,200 n/a
WIS Element 3 - Continuous Cover Forestry (three interventions €1,200/intervention €150
WIS Element 4 - Coppice and Coppice with Standards  €1,200 n/a
WIS Element 5 - Seed Stand Management  €1,200 €500

Opting for Improved Rates

Forest owners who had applied for thinning and tending or CCF (first intervention) under the previous scheme, and are yet to receive approval will have the opportunity to opt-in to the new scheme at improved rates. Similarly, those with existing approvals under relevant elements, yet to commence work, will have opportunity to opt-in and benefit from the enhanced rates.

Application procedure

The applicant and a Registered Forester (List of Registered Foresters, PDF) complete the application form. This is following a site visit and detailed field assessment in conjunction with his/her Registered Forester. Only one WIS element can be selected per application form. Additionally, only one element can be applied for per plot. 

Further information and support

For those considering woodland improvement activities, further information is available on the Teagasc’s website, or alternatively from your local Teagasc forestry Advisor. Availing of the Woodland Improvement Scheme encourages qualifying forest owners to embrace sustainable practices, helping unlock the potential of their woodlands, and contributing to Ireland's environmental stewardship.

For more details on the Woodland Improvement Scheme, click here.