Some of the world’s biggest companies are paying Irish farmers to plant trees.
Microsoft and Accenture are availing of the Woodland Environmental Fund (WEF) to partner with the Government and private landowners in creating diverse woodland habitats.
Other companies participating in the scheme include Aldi, Lidl, KBI Global Investments, and An Post.
The landowner gains on the double, being grant-aided by the government while also being subsidised by the companies.
The companies pay the landowner a once-off single top-up of €1,000 per hectare, following payment to the landowner of the first Native Woodland Establishment Scheme grant and forestry premium by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
This entitles the companies to declare the carbon captured by these trees against their carbon footprint.
The WEF expands Ireland’s native woodland resource by providing additional incentives to encourage landowners to plant new native woodlands.
Participating businesses enhance their reputation by association with creation of a tangible environmental asset that will become a permanent feature of the landscape.
Businesses of all sizes, from local firms to multinationals operating in Ireland can take part, to encourage more landowners to create new native woodlands.
The scheme first requires farmers and other landowners interested in planting native woodlands to opt into the WEF, as part of their standard application to the Native Woodland Establishment Scheme.
In this scheme, the government grant available is up to €6,220 per hectare, followed by an annual premium of up to €680 per year for 15 years.
The Scheme is only for establishment of new native woodlands on “green field” sites.
Native species (such as oak, birch, holly, hazel, alder); minimal site disturbance; and long-term “close-to-nature” management, are features of the scheme.
Environmentally sensitive areas can qualify.
Then the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine undertakes its standard evaluation procedure (which assesses the environmental and silvicultural suitability of the proposal) and, if appropriate, issues approval for the planting of native woodland.
Then the registered forester (or forestry company) working on behalf of the landowner provides a participating facilitator with details of the proposed woodland.
The facilitator will present a list of suitable projects to businesses interested in participating.
Only one business can be associated with a single native woodland project.
The business gains no ownership rights but has an association with the forest owner for 15 years.