Three Forestry Grant Schemes have been launched – The Forest Expansion Scheme, The Forest Protection Scheme and Woodland Investment Grant.
Michelle O’Neill announced the opening of the schemes, which will also underpin sustainable management of existing woodland, under the Rural Development Programme.
The Forest Expansion Scheme will encourage larger woodland planting, to increase long-term storage of carbon in trees and counter climate change.
It’s also hoped they will provide publicly accessible forests and forests suitable for wildlife and timber production.
The Forest Protection Scheme is aimed at assisting woodland owners to restore immature woodland affected by tree disease such as Chalara Ash Dieback and the Woodland Investment Grant will support removal of non-native and invasive exotic species
Launching the schemes, Minister O’Neill said: “I am pleased to announce that the Forestry Grant Schemes are now open for funding applications under the Rural Development Programme for 2014-20.
“I have allocated up to £17.4million to support woodland expansion and the sustainable management of existing woodland, which is sufficient to create 1,800 hectares of new woodland and sustain approximately 4,000 hectares created under previous programmes.
“This will make a small but positive contribution towards my aim of achieving 12% woodland cover by the middle of this century.
“Our forests are enjoyed by communities and there is a clear consensus about the need to increase our woodland area to counter the impact of climate change, to provide a habitat for wildlife and places for people to relax and unwind from stress and take part in physical exercise.
“The three Forestry Grant Schemes I’m launching today will help deliver these needs.”
The Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.