Forestry Management

The Forestry Act 2014 updates the legislation in relation to forestry.  It repeals the Forestry Act 1946 and previous legislation.  The Act provides for the functions of the Minister and gives powers to protect forest from a range of risks and threats, including fire, disease, and vermin.  Enforcement measures by the way of penalties and prosecutions are provided for.

The Forestry Acts give the Minister extensive powers in respect of forestry management.  This includes power:

  • promote, monitor and protect the enhancement of water quality in all aspects of forestry;
  • promote and encourage the development of forestry for the purposes of biodiversity, public amenity and recreation;
  • promote and monitor the use of forests in carbon sequestration.

Easements may be created or extinguishment as necessary in connection with the exercise of forestry policies.  Provisions for assessment of compensation apply in respect of the acquisition of land or easement.

There are significant restrictions on cutting down trees.  In this context, cutting down means coming through the trunk at a height of less than six feet to the extent that the tree falls or is rendered liable to fall under the influence of a natural entity.


The State forestry resources are vested in  Coillte.  Its purposes are:

  • To carry on the business of forestry and related activities on a commercial basis in accordance with efficient practices;
  • To establish and carry out woodland industries;
  • To participate in forestry related activities.

Coillte has powers to create and extinguish easements and compulsorily acquire land.  Compensation must generally be paid.


Where a person wishes to cut or fell a tree other than exempted trees, he must apply to the Minister for a licence.  There is a procedure for the application for the licence.  Conditions may be applied including in particular replanting conditions.

Certain categories of trees are exempted from the requirement for a felling license. There are detailed exemptions.

The Minister may by order, make an order prohibiting felling or removal of trees including exempted trees.

Conditions may be attached to a felling licence or a replanting order served on any person and the Minister must sent a copy to the registration authority who is to register it as a burden on the land, whether registered or unregistered.

An application for licence to fell trees must specify details of the applicant, the trees concerned and other requisite details.  A licence is generally valid for up to 10 years, as specified.

Conditions may be attached to the license and they may be subject to variation.  They include in particular

  • erection of notices, advising tree felling is being carried on;
  • requiring replanting of such species, at such places and in such numbers, at such density within such period as may be specified;
  • requiring, fencing or barriers to prevent trespassing by animals, during such period;
  • requiring submission of a report requiring submission of a forestry management plan; such other environmental silvicultural requirements as the Minister considers appropriate.


Felling any trees or permitting or causing them to be felled without a licence is an offence.  It is subject on summary conviction, to a fine of €200 per tree up to €5,000 or imprisonment of 6 months or on conviction of an indictment, up to €1,000,000, and imprisonment for up to 5 years.

The Minister may appoint officers for the purpose of enforcement of the legislation.  Authorised officers have powers of entry and enforcement.

There is provision for fixed penalty  notice where an authorise officer has reasonable grounds for believing a person has reasonable grounds for believing a person has felled or removed the tree without a licence.  There is provision for summary prosecution.

The Minister may issue a replanting orders requiring owners to replant, felled trees that are being cut without a licence.

Land Management

A forest owner must notify the Minister  where a forest is destroyed or removed by any means other than licence including fire and other causes.  Failure to do so is an offence.  The Minister may serve a replanting order.

The Minister has power to require forest owners, managers, processors and dealers in timber to provide information.Th Minister may serve a notice on the landowner of uncultivated land in the vicinity of forest to remove vegetation that may pose a fire risk to the forest.  He may authorise persons to enter land to remove the vegetation if the land is unoccupied or the owner fails to comply with the notice.

Where the Minister is satisfied that trees in the forest are at significant risk of being damaged by fire originating on uncultivated land in the vicinity of the forest by reason of presence of vegetation, the Minister may serve on the owner a notice stating that the vegetation constitutes a danger to the trees and directing that it be removed or destroyed as may be specified.

Where the land is unoccupied or the owner fails to respond, the Minister may enter, do the works and destroy vegetation within 45 metres of the forest.

On proof by the owner of the land that the steps taken above by authorised persons needlessly resulted in damage or loss of a significant character, the person authorised may be liable to pay compensation and shall be entitled to be reimbursed by the owners of the trees concerned.

Where the Minister is satisfied that free trees in a forest are being, damaged by vermin in its vicinity, he may serve a notice in writing stating that the trees are likely to be so damaged and directing that the vermin be destroyed insofar as reasonably practicable to do so or specified steps must be taken to prevent the damage within such time as the may be specified.  Similar provisions apply as above.

Where the land is unoccupied or the notice is not responded to, the Minister may authorise a person in writing to enter kill and take the vermin within a specified period.  Vermin are defined.

The power is not to be interpreted as authorised in the destruction of species protected under the Wildlife or Natural Act and Habitats Regulations other than in accordance with a licence granted by the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Similar provisions apply in respect of payment of compensation, where the person who has been so authorised, needlessly causes damage or loss of a significant character.  The person who is to pay compensation is entitled to be reimbursed by the owner of the trees.

Wildlife Act Offences

A person shall not light a fire or do any other act which is likely to cause a burning of vegetation growing within one mile of a wood which is not his property. Any person who burns vegetation, lights a fire or does any other act in contravention of this obligation is guilty of an offence.

There is provision for notice not less than seven and no more than 35 days, to the local Garda Síochána in the case of woods by the occupier, or where there is an establishment order by the occupier or the Minister as the case may be in respect of the land. The Minister or any other person to whom the notice is given may within three days after receiving the notice serve a counter-notice on the person by whom such notice was given objecting to the proposed burning on the ground that it is liable to cause damage to the wood or land concerned.

Where the burning, lighting of fire or other act causes injury to wood or land, it is deemed to have been caused by the negligent act of the person burning and damages to the extent of that injury are recoverable in a court of competent judge.  Most wild birds are protected with the exception of certain scheduled ones which are usually regarded as vermin.  A Minister may declare a species of wild birds such as may be captured or killed under circumstances and conditions set out in regulations.

General Wildlife Protection

The Wildlife Act, 1976, is the principal national legislation providing for the protection of wildlife and the control of some activities that may adversely affect wildlife. The Wildlife Act, 1976, came into operation on 1 June 1977. It was the only major legislation concerned with wildlife that was passed in the previous 45 years. It replaced the Game Preservation Act, 1930, and the Wild Birds (Protection) Act, 1930.

The aims of the Wildlife Act, 1976, are to provide for the protection and conservation of wild fauna and flora, to conserve a representative sample of important ecosystems, to provide for the development and protection of game resources and to regulate their exploitation, and to provide the services necessary to accomplish such aims.

Under the Act, the Minister responsible for nature conservation may afford protection to all wild species of fauna and flora. However, the 1976 Act did not provide for the conservation of fish species nor of aquatic invertebrates in general, except insofar as species may be added in agreement with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Currently all bird species, 22 other animal species or groups of species and 86 species of flora are afforded protected status.

The Act also enables the possession, trade and movement of wildlife to be regulated and controlled. Hunting and also falconry is controlled under the Act. Specific areas of importance for wildlife may be protected under the Act either as Nature Reserves, Refuges for Fauna, or by way of management agreements.

Under the Act, the Minister may provide assistance and advice on wildlife matters, undertake the necessary research and promote public knowledge and understanding of wildlife.

The Wildlife Act is not concerned with animal welfare per se, as its primary purpose is the conservation of wildlife. Animal welfare is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Food.

More than 6,000 licences mainly concerned with hunting and import, or export species are issued by NPWS under the Act every year. (NPWS)


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