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Wallace announces Public Consultation Phase of National Forest Inventory

Ms. Mary Wallace T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with responsibility for forestry, today announced the commencement of the public consultation phase of the National Forest Inventory (NFI). This inventory involves a detailed field survey of Ireland's forests and woodlands and its purpose is to record and assess the composition and condition of the entire forest estate, both public and private, at national level. Interested parties are invited to comment on to what uses the collected data should be put, the level of information that should be generated from the raw data and to facilitate discussion around detail of the final report. The consultation phase will conclude on 30th March 2007.

Underlining the importance of this project, Minister of State Wallace commented "It is vital that we have a proper inventory of our forests to enable accurate national forecasts on the maturing forest estate and assist strategic planning within the forestry sector. A lot of time, effort and planning has going into this inventory to date and it is important that interested parties avail of this opportunity to contribute to the process."

The Minister of State pointed out that data from over 1,850 forest inventory plots has been collected and is currently undergoing data analysis. She was also pleased to note that the project will be completed on time and within budget. The purpose of the public consultation is to ascertain from interested stakeholders as to what use this data can be put and should also stimulate discussion as to the final report. Further details are available from the NFI webpage of the Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie/nfi.

Note for Editors National Forest Inventory Progress Report

The Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture and Food is in the process of completing the first statistical National Forest Inventory in Ireland. This inventory involves a detailed field survey of Irelands forests and woodlands. The purpose of the National Forest Inventory is to record and assess the composition and condition of the entire forest estate, both public and private, at national level.

At the end of the 19th century the area of woodland and forest cover in Ireland was estimated to be approximately 69,000 hectares, or 1% of the national land area. During the first 75 years of the 20th century forestry in Ireland was almost exclusively carried out by the State and by 1985 forest and woodland cover had increased to approximately 420,000 hectares. The mid 1980s saw a significant increase in private forest development, with the introduction of EU funded grant schemes aimed at encouraging private land owners, mainly farmers, to become involved in forestry. As a result, the area of national forest estate in Ireland has now increased to almost 710,000 hectares. Of this, approximately 45% is in private ownership and 55% is in the ownership of Coillte Teoranta (The Irish Forestry Board).

Despite this increase in the amount of forestry in Ireland, the State does not have an inventory of the entire national forest estate. The location and extent of most forests is known and Coillte Teoranta maintains an inventory of its forests. However, the composition and condition of much of the private forest estate in not known. This information is essential to facilitate the sustainable development of our forests. The lack of information on the composition of our forests in relation to timber volumes, and in relation to plant and animal species, is an impediment to the management of the national forest resource. The survey will

  1. Enable Ireland to provide accurate national forecasts on the maturing forest estate and assist strategic planning for the future direction of the timber processing industry,
  2. Provide accurate data on the volume of timber, and area of the national forest estate, thereby facilitating the calculation of carbon estimates for Kyoto reporting
  3. Provide information on the biodiversity within our forests and facilitate the management of our natural heritage.

Approximately 1,850 potential forest plots have been selected at random throughout the country, with the number of plots in each county relative to the size of the county and the level of forestry. Each plot measures 25.2 meters in diameter and comprises approximately 500m2.

Within each sample plot a variety of information has been collected from the tree top to the soil underneath. For example, information is being collected on tree growth and development, with particular emphasis on the presence of any disease or pests, and on the type of plants and animals present in the plot. Soil type and drainage information is also recorded, making it the most comprehensive survey of forest soils ever undertaken.

To facilitate the collection of this information the Forest Service recruited 6 professional foresters. As the project now nears completion, it can be stated that the project will be completed on time and within budget. The field data collection began in November 2004 and concluded in November 2006. Approximately 100 plots remain for completion in counties Dublin and Wicklow. Wherever possible, landowners have been notified in advance if one of the selected sample plots is located on their property. All Forest Service personnel involved in the National Forest Inventory carry photographic identification, along with written authorisation from the Minister to enter forest lands.

The National Forest Inventory is about to embark on a period of public consultation. This will allow any interested party comment on to what uses the collected data should be put, the level of information that should be generated from the raw data and to facilitate discussion around detail of the final report. The consultation phase which the Minister announced today will conclude on the 30th March 2007. Further details are available from the NFI webpage of the Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie/nfi.

Date Released: 08 March 2007