Government scheme to support landowners hit by storm-force winds opens

A scheme to give aid to land owners whose plantations were damaged by storm-force winds over two years ago has been opened.

Storms which occurred on 12 days between December 5, 2013, and February 12, 2014 caused havoc. 

While the extent of the damage caused by is estimated to be less than 1% nationally, the damage was extensive at a local level. 

The south and the Midlands were worst hit. Large quantities of timber were blown over. 

Entire forests in some cases were completely levelled.

Both the frequency and ferocity of these storms, compounded by waterlogged soils on many sites, led to extensive damage on private and state-owned forest lands.

RapidEye satellite imagery revealed the estimated damage to be in the order of 8,000 hectares, of which 75% is owned by Coillte Teoranta.

This equates to 2m cu m of timber, which is 65% of the total volume of roundwood harvested in 2014.

Windblow damage is not a new phenomenon to forestry, though on a much smaller scale than that experienced during the winter of 2013/14. 

The risks are influenced by soil type, height of the trees, and altitude. Thinning of forests may also increase the risk in exposed high altitude sites.

Agriculture, Food, and Marine Minister Michael Creed said many private forest owners suffered significant financial loss in terms of the value of timber lost and the cost in re-establishing the sites affected.

Negotiations on a scheme to assist in the reconstitution of the forests affected had been ongoing for some time.

He said he was pleased his department, in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, is now in a position to make a Windblow Reconstitution Scheme available to those forest owners.

“The State will contribute towards the cost of replanting these sites as a once-off measure for this specific weather event,” he said.

Mr Creed said a maximum grant of €1,700 per hectare up to a total of 10 hectares will be made available under the scheme to those private forest owners meeting the eligibility criteria. 

He reminded forest owners of the importance of insuring their forests to protect their valuable resource.

Mr Creed advised those affected that forest owners of conifer forests planted after December 1, 1989 will be eligible to apply. Those with broadleaves planted after December 1,1983 can also apply.

The budget allocated to the scheme can provide funding in respect of a total of 2,000 hectares.

Should the number of applications exceed that amount, a selection process will ensure funding is allocated to favour forests which suffered the greatest loss.

Details of the reconstruction scheme along with the application form will be available from this week on the department’s website.

The closing date for receipt of applications is February 24, 2017.

www.agriculture. gov. ie/forestservice/grantsandpremiumschemes2015-2016


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