Hayes Launches Native Woodland Conservation Scheme


Tom Hayes, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, launched the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme during his visit to the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co. Laois. Funding is provided under the Scheme to restore Ireland's native woodlands, which are rich complex ecosystems and an invaluable part of Ireland’s natural heritage.

Launching the Scheme, Minister of State Hayes commented that “Over €7 million has been set aside in the new Forestry Programme for this Scheme allowing for almost 2,000 hectares of native Irish forests to undergo an intensive programme of restoration work over the next 5 to 6 years. This will contribute significantly to the future health and vitality of these important woodlands, enriching both the surrounding landscape and ecology of these important habitats. Native woodlands also protect watercourses and link together other habitats in the wider countryside. With appropriate management, native woodlands can also provide valuable timber and income for the woodland owner.” Under the Scheme, up to €5,000 per hectare will be available for appropriate restoration works, in addition to a 7-year premium for private woodland owners of €350 per hectare per year.

The Minister of State highlighted the role of the Scheme in delivering wider 'ecological services' beyond the woodland itself, adding that “The Native Woodland Conservation Scheme provides options for woodland owners, foresters and ecologists to develop compatible woodland cover in environmentally-sensitive areas, where the protection and enhancement of water quality is vital. For this reason, the Scheme will feature strongly in this Department's efforts in relation to the long-term conservation of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel, one of our most endangered species of wildlife.”

The Native Woodland Conservation Scheme has been developed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in close partnership with Woodlands of Ireland, the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), the Heritage Council, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and other native woodland stakeholders. 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.

The Native Woodland Conservation Scheme operates in tandem with existing measures under the general Afforestation Scheme to support the creation of new native woodland, thereby providing an overall package of support for the restoration and expansion of Ireland's native woodland resource.

Source: GardenGuide News Room

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