The Forest Service, an agency for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), has announced the reopening of two forestry grant schemes.

The Forest Expansion Scheme and the Small Woodland Grant Scheme are designed to support and enable landowners to plant new woodlands for environmental and economic benefits, along with tackle climate change,

John Joe O’Boyle, Forest Service, chief executive, said: “Planting new woodlands is widely recognised as having an important role in mitigating impacts of climate change.”

The schemes

According to the Forest Service, the Forest Expansion Scheme funds successful applicants with up to 100% of costs, along with an annual payment for 10 years.

It aims to encourage landowners to plant a wide range of sustainable new woodlands of 3ha and larger.

O’Boyle added: “The trees absorb carbon as they grow and store it when the timber is processed into wood products, used for example in building construction. They can therefore play a part in helping us meet our net zero targets.

“Well designed new woodlands also enhance the landscape, environment, create new habitats and support farm business sustainability and contribute to our Forests for the Future project.”

Whereas the Small Woodland Grant Scheme is designed to support landowners to plant smaller scale native (at least 0.2ha) woodlands.

With this scheme there are also annual payments for a 10-year period and it funds the planting of trees and if required, stock fencing.

O’Boyle said that he would urge landowners to “engage early” with Forest Service or their forest agent in providing advice and assistance on forestry proposals.

Landowners who wish to plant this winter are reminded that all applications must be submitted to Forest Service before 3:00p.m on Thursday, August 31, 2023. Early applications are encouraged.

Small Woodland Grant Scheme applications must be submitted through DAERA online services by 10:00p.m on August 31, 2023.

NI climate plans

Following the passing of the Climate Change Act, Northern Ireland must now, by law, reach net zero by 2050 and have reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of at least 48% by 2030.

DAERA launched on Wednesday (June 21) Northern Ireland’s first-ever consultation on carbon budgets.

According to the department, the consultation will last 16 weeks and will run from June 21 until October 11, 2023.