Forestry has direct benefits for local communities through the establishment of plantations, in spin-off effects in support services, through industries ranging from woodcraft to industrial processing, to rural tourism, and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine published in 2014. This sets out national policy to guide the expansion of the forest sector out to 2046 in a sustainable and cost efficient manner. National policy is to increase the forest cover from the current level to 18% in 2046 with a target of 30% broadleaf planting in afforestation.
According to the Forest Service, 9.6% of the county was in forest cover in 2017. This has decreased slightly from 9.98% in 2011, but is an increase on the 2007 level of 7.8%. Nationally, 11% of land is under forest cover.
Forestry activities must be appropriate in terms of nature and scale to the surrounding area, so that they are not visually obtrusive in the landscape. The Landscape Character Assessment in Chapter 9, Heritage, should be consulted to facilitate guidance on areas which contain opportunities for the creation of new woodland and areas which might be sensitive to new forestry proposals.
Woodlands provide recreational opportunities in addition to their heritage and economic benefits. They are also important as links in the county’s green infrastructure network. Coillte have provided access to many of their forests and support the use of the forests for recreational uses, and provide access to three forests currently in Co. Kilkenny; Jenkinstown, Coill an Fhaltaigh near Kilkenny City and Castlemorris. Coillte’s Recreation Policy states that Coillte recognises that forests provide an excellent landscape for a wide range of recreational activities, and Coillte will continue to provide recreation that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
The Council will encourage and promote access to forests, including private forestry, in co-operation with Coillte, the Forest Service and other agencies, for walking routes, mountain trails, bridle paths, orienteering, cycling and other recreational activities (see Chapter 7 Open Space and Recreation).
It is the policy of the Council to facilitate the sustainable development of forestry in appropriate areas of the county, where it will not significantly impact upon designated habitats and biodiversity, archaeology, and that it does not have a significant adverse visual impact on the local landscape.