The State has grant-aided the planting of 33,930 privately-owned forests, covering an area of approximately 288,000ha, since 1980, according to the Department of Agriculture’s annual forestry statistics publication.

That is an area large enough to plant the entirety of Co Longford two and a half times over. These forests were planted by 24,026 individuals, the vast majority of which planted a single parcel.

Some 244 have planted more than five parcels with grant aid over the 43-year period, with this group representing only 1% of forestry grant recipients, but one in every eight acres of grant-aided forestry.

Six individual forest owners planted more than 50 separate grant aided forests covering an average of 1,454ha per person. There were 267 private forests planted with Department afforestation grants last year, which is the lowest number since 1985.

The average size of these forests in 2023 was also at its smallest since the mid-1980s at only 5.5ha.

Land planted by active farmers accounted for 82% of the private forestry established between 1980 and 2023, but this figure was only 46% last year.