Dáil Éireann - Volume 79 - 05 March, 1940
Supplementary and Additional Estimates. - Vote 55—Forestry (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1940, for Salaries and Expenses in connection with Forestry  (9 & 10 Geo. 5, c. 58, and No. 34 of 1928), including a Grant-in-Aid for Acquisition of Land. —(Minister for Lands).
Mr. Hughes Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes: The Department is to be congratulated on the progress made in the way of increased planting. It is very useful work, gives a good deal of employment, has a very beneficial effect on our climate and on drainage, and increases the national wealth. I should like to say that I appreciate the difficulties that the Department experiences in the acquisition of land suitable for planting purposes, and the necessity of securing the goodwill of the people in a locality where it is proposed to plant. The Minister referred to the difficulty of acquiring that type of land, for which sometimes commonage is claimed. It must be borne in mind when speaking about afforestation that land suitable for the production of timber that will be used afterwards for commercial purposes must be fertile land. In that respect land that is suitable for planting is sometimes claimed by the local people to be suitable for grazing, and hence difficulties arise. I have in mind one place in County Carlow where the Forestry Department proposed, some years ago, to acquire land for planting. It was land suitable for afforestation, but local small farmers, who live along the skirt of Mount Leinster, pointed out that it was also suitable for sheep grazing. A good deal of that mountain side produces fair herbage. The Department actually proceeded to fence in the mountain, prior to planting it, but when I made representations to the Minister, it was realised that it would be a mistake to plant there, and that it was in the national interest to preserve that place for grazing, inasmuch as 40 or 50 families were able to make a living out of it. They had small patches of arable land that produced potato crops, but they lived mainly by feeding pigs and sheep farming. Between 3,000 and 4,000 sheep were grazed on that mountain, and I suggest that it would not be in the national interests to plant trees there.
Where commonage is claimed, and where the Department is about to  acquire it, I think there should be a definite responsibility on the Departmen to examine into the economic position that obtains there, having regard to the livelihood of the local people. I do not know if that responsibility obtains at present. Possibly the Department is simply concerned with the planting aspect alone. That is not enough. This question should definitely be inquired into in all cases, especially where there is any doubt about leaving the land for commonage and grazing purposes, and the views of the local people should be considered. We all realise that unless we have the goodwill of the local people we are not going to succeed in this work, because, if there is objection, a plantation might be destroyed two or three years after it has been planted. While I appreciate the difficulties that the Department is up against in acquiring suitable land for planting, and remembering that the land must be reasonably fertile in order to produce commercial timber, it should also be remembered that where there is useful herbage, that can be used generally for grazing sheep, it is far more in the national interest to preserve it for that purpose and to give preference to men rather than to trees. Sometimes an attempt is made by the Department to give preference to trees over men. Where people are making a livelihood out of land, it is preferable that it should continue to be used for that purpose. Possibly the herbage could be improved, but that is another matter and does not concern this Department.
Mr. Moore Mr. Moore
Mr. Moore: Would not the Deputy's suggestion stop all planting?
Mr. Hughes Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes: Not necessarily. In a district where there is suitable land, and where no claim is made to it by local people for the grazing of sheep, planting could be carried out. That type of land can be got. While I appreciate the difficulties of the Department I think pressure should not be brought to bear on people to give up land that is suitable for the production of sheep. Such land could carry sheep during the store period, and they could be fattened afterwards on better  land in the valley. That is the type of land we have on Mount Leinster in County Carlow, on which a large number of store sheep are produced and finished.
Mr. Moore Mr. Moore
Mr. Moore: Wicklow is perhaps the most thickly planted county in Ireland and, in my opinion, the Department never takes land that some people do not object on the ground that it is wanted for grazing or tillage purposes.
Mr. Kennedy Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy: I want to draw the Minister's attention to the slowness of the Department in acquiring land for forestry purposes. As I understand, forestry units have been created throughout the country, the idea being that a unit shall consist of 600 acres within a certain district. In my constituency in one unit the farmers offered a portion of land to augment an area that had already been planted on the Gradwell estate, and inspectors went down there, but the matter drags on. I am raising this matter now in order to get an answer from the Minister, because one year follows another, and it is not know when the Department will move. I hope this Department will not get the reputation for slowness that is applied to some other Departments. An Act was passed by the previous Government making it compulsory when obtaining a permit to fell trees to plant young trees. I want to complain that that provision has not been observed. Two years ago one of the leading saw milling firms in England sent representatives to Ireland, and they bought up ash trees all over the Midlands. They gave good prices and paid good wages. They bought hundreds of ash trees, the timber in which, I understand, was used in the manufacture of aeroplanes. I was speaking to one of the representatives of this firm and he told me that Irish ash was the best in the world. That gives the lie to those who say that Ireland is only suitable for the growing of soft timber, such as spruce and fir. An undertaking was given that when a belt of ash trees or forests were sold the land would be replanted. Not a single tree, so far as my constituency is concerned, has been planted in their place.
 I raised the matter with the Department of the destruction of these woods and the Department gave me to understand from time to time that undertakings had been given. They have not been observed since. Previous to that, I was able to point out several large belts of forest which had been felled in County Westmeath and nothing has been done to replace them. It is a very serious matter. We claim that we are one of the best wooded counties in Ireland—I think that statement is true—but we will become like the other counties, without woods, if there is not more insistence on the planting of young trees where old timber is felled. I know that people can become very sentimental about trees and I am not complaining of the felling of old timber where it is mature. I have given a case of ash which has been bought up all over the Midlands. That was not old timber and, in many cases, it was not mature. I understand that it takes upwards of 100 years for ash to mature and I should like the Minister to go into the matter.
What I am going to say now does not really concern his Department, but I might mention, in passing, that that firm were anxious to establish a sawmill here. They did not get the facilities because the question of a 51 per cent. Irish capital arose and they were not prepared to let their capital be subscribed here. These are the two matters to which I should like the Minister to give his attention—the failure to plant trees where trees are felled and the slowness of the Department in acquiring and taking over land adjoining forest belts which is offered to them.
Mr. Bennett Mr. Bennett
Mr. Bennett: I appreciate the difficulties of any Minister in extending the acreage under forestry in this country, and I believe the Forestry Department are doing possibly as well as could be done in the circumstances. The difficulty pointed out by Deputy Hughes certainly exists. That is, that in relation to forestry—and I do not know that it is generally appreciated—you require reasonably fertile land to grow even the easiest-grown trees, and a  question arises, when the Minister is asked to plant a district where land could conceivably be used for either forestry or, in certain circumstances, for various forms of agriculture, which it should be used for. I am quite sure the Minister has come up against the argument which many of us come up against, that the land can be used for the production of some sort of human food and very probably he will be induced to leave such land for that purpose, and I believe that on the whole he would be right in doing so; but then the question arises: where are we going to get the necessary land for afforestation? We have been appealing to various Ministers in this Department for years to proceed on a larger scale with afforestation, but when an effort is made to plant lands that are even reasonably fertile, the objection is raised that these lands can be used for other purposes, such as the feeding of sheep, or, in certain circumstances, of cattle, so that the matter is not at all as easy as it appears to be.
There is one aspect of the question to which Deputy Kennedy referred and to which I also want to refer, that is, that while we are proceeding with the extension of forestry, we ought to make a greater effort to preserve the trees we have. I have referred to this previously and I am glad that Deputy Kennedy alluded to it to-day. A great lot of the timber of the slower-growing type and the hardwood type, such as oak, elm and ash, and even the rarer types such as walnut, which did exist in this country has disappeared, or is disappearing. Some of them have practically disappeared. Deputy Kennedy referred to the law which forbids the cutting of trees except under permit, but we all know that trees are being cut wholesale and I am not certain that in all cases a permit has been issued. Still, the cutting goes on and, in a short time, there will be very little of the type of timber I mention left. We have a zoo in this country so that people may have a chance of seeing rare varieties of animals, but we have nothing of the sort in relation to  forestry and, in a very few years, such trees as walnut trees and, to a great extent, oak and ash trees will have disappeared from many districts. The children of the new generation will not have an opportunity of knowing even what such trees were like.
Some people will say that I am exaggerating, but we are rapidly advancing to that position, and there ought to be a greater effort to preserve the trees which are slow-growing and which are not being planted. Everyone of us knows that in the division of large estates for the past 14 or 15 years, no practical effort has been made to preserve the trees. The argument is put forward that if in the division of an estate, some holder gets a portion of land with trees on it, he is bound to cut them, and I agree entirely. No man ought to be asked to live as a farmer on a portion of land which is composed mostly of large timber, even if it is rich land; but such a man does not do so. He proceeds to cut the trees down, and most people would do the same. I suggest that another remedy should have been found. I do not suggest that any man should be asked to take over a portion of partially wooded land, develop it for agricultural purposes and make it pay; but the State should have devised other remedies and should have preserved those portions of these estates. If you like, the grazing between the trees could be given to some of the tenants around, in common, if necessary, and the timber preserved. So far as I know, in my own constituency, no practical effort whatever was made to preserve these trees and I should like to see that matter looked into. I should like to see an effort made, not alone to advance the growing of timber, but also to preserve what timber we have. I believe the effort has not been made, but it is not yet too late to make it, even though it is rather late.
There is one other matter to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention. Greater encouragement ought to be given to the ordinary holder of land, small or big, to grow timber. Most people do not want to go in for growing timber on a large scale on their farms,  but there are many farmers who would like to plant a few trees. The Department is good enough to give forest trees to farmers at a cheap rate and, sometimes, for a nominal sum, but the difficulty arises—I found it in a case in which I was interested—that there is a minimum that must be applied for. I think the regulation is that no farmer can apply for a lesser number of trees than 360 or 370. Very few small holders want 360 trees. Many farmers would put in a dozen or half a dozen, but the regulations forbid that. I was personally interested in a case lately in my county where a society thought that a particular parish ought to be planted.
They devised the idea of getting the farmers and labourers to combine and take a number of trees and divide them in ones, twos and tens, if they could get them. They proceeded on these lines until practically the whole parish was organised. The time was getting late for planting trees, and when they went to the Committee of Agriculture—I was with them as a matter of fact —a crux arose. The local instructor found that they had no authority to give the number of trees required. The difficulty was that they wanted some thousands of trees to divide them out in sixes and sevens amongst the small farmers and labourers, and it was found that there was a regulation which forbade that. It appeared that no man could apply for less than 360 trees, I think—I am not sure of the number. The crux really was that the society could not apply for the trees, that they had to be applied for by the individual holders, some of whom did not want such a number as that, and it looked as if the scheme would fall through. However, I am glad to say that, when appealed to, the Department met them very fairly indeed, just as I expected they would. They agreed in the circumstances to allow them to proceed with their plan and they are proceeding with it now even though it is a bit late, and are getting different people to grow a certain number of trees.
I refer to the matter chiefly because  there appears to be a regulation in existence preventing that. In this case the Department allowed it, but I should like to see that regulation abolished altogether so that a farmer could apply to the Committee of Agriculture for half a dozen trees or a dozen trees if he wanted them. Most of us would like to see every farmer growing trees, whether one, two, three, half a dozen or a dozen. No farmer wants to grow a huge number of trees. Therefore, I do not think that regulation should be allowed to continue in existence to prevent any farmer getting the number of trees he wanted. I do not think the Department mean that. In fact, in the case I mentioned they were entirely sympathetic and met the case fairly. But the regulation still remains so far as I know and I should like to see it removed.
I appreciate, as I said, the difficulty of the Minister and the Department in increasing the acreage under afforestation in this country. There are many difficulties, for instance, in deciding whether certain fertile lands should be used for afforestation or agriculture. On the whole, I think they are proceeding fairly rapidly. They are giving a good lot of employment, and I hope they can see their way to extend that. I hope they will make a greater effort to preserve the trees of a slow-growing variety that we have and not leave us in the position in ten or 15 years' time that certain trees, like the walnut and other trees which we have at present, have not been preserved.
Mr. O'Neill Mr. O'Neill
Mr. O'Neill: I have very little to say on this Vote except to endorse the remarks made by some previous speakers, that we appreciate the fact that there has been a great improvement in the operations of the Forestry Department. I think a great deal of the credit ought to be directed to our colleague on the Fianna Fáil benches, Deputy Dowdall, for the drive which has taken place in regard to forestry. I think it was never seriously taken up as a Ministerial activity until some very nasty things were said about the sort of stalemate which had set in in the Department. The Ministerial attitude  towards trees might be summed up in the words of that famous poem by Joyce Kilmer:
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
However, I think that there has been a different viewpoint adopted in the last year or two and that there has been a considerable improvement. It appears to me that whatever forestry work is going to be done in future will be determined by our own activity in the matter.
A point has been raised about the class of trees planted on the lands acquired for forestry. I would like if we could plant a more useful class of tree than we have been planting. It is all very fine to talk about Scotch spruce, Australian pine, etc. I should like the Department to use its research branch to discover a form of tree which would be of more material and commercial use. Take the average house built in this country. Have we ever asked ourselves how much of the timber that goes into the construction of a house is Irish—how much Irish timber is used in building construction? No great commercial use is being made of trees we can grow successfully and which I do not see planted to any great extent—trees such as beech and elm.
Reference has been made to ash, which is a very useful tree of wide utility, and has been used in aeroplanes very successfully, as Deputy Kennedy pointed out. Here in this country we are in very great danger of our national game becoming extinct through want of good class ash hurleys which are very difficult to obtain at present, particularly in small sizes for schoolboys. They have become very expensive owing to the great scarcity of ash. I think the cultivation of ash is one form of forestry which should be taken up by our Government Departments and forestry classes. As I say, the national game is in great danger of extinction within the next few years if hurleys are not forthcoming in greater numbers than they have been.
Reference has been made to replanting  and fault has been found that trees have been allowed to be cut down and no replanting done. I do not think that is very general. I think the Civic Guards keep a watchful eye out for any vandalism which might take place in the way of destruction of trees. I do not think that anyone cuts down trees to any great extent without getting the necessary permission to do so. A lot of clearing was done during the last Great War, and many of the districts cleared then have never been replanted. Some of these areas ought to be taken up for planting. I am surprised that some of the Department's inspectors do not agree that some of these lands are suitable for timber growing. In the County Limerick, towards the hills on the northern side, there is an extensive acreage which was inspected some time ago by an inspector who thought it was not suitable for the cultivation of trees. There are many places in the valleys in the centre of West Cork between the Lee and the Bandon which have not been availed of where there is distinct evidence of there having been forests in the old times.
The trouble, of course, is to get large belts in the one ownership. That could be got over by taking over places which are near to one another within a couple of townlands, but which might belong to half-a-dozen owners. I think that would be a very economic way of dealing with the matter. Instead of getting 300 or 500 acres in the one ownership, you might get lots of 100 acres within a certain distance of each other. I understand that the difficulty with regard to taking less than 300 acres is the cost of fencing which makes it uneconomic.
A question has also been raised about the difficulty of getting good lands for afforestation. Some people are of the opinion that any sort of waste land would grow trees. That is not so. Some trees require a good deal of nutriment in the soil and will not grow in places where a lot of people think they would grow. Waste land is not suitable for forestry in all cases. Sometimes it requires good land, but there is a lot of good land  such as mountain slopes and the sides of rivers and mountain sides where the land is good but cannot be cultivated because of its steepness and that is the sort of land that could be planted.
Has the Department made any advance in trying to secure the kind of tree that might be grown satisfactorily on the south-western slopes of our seaboard, a tree that would withstand the prevailing winds from the ocean? The whole south-western coast of Cork, Kerry and Clare and the land along the mouth of the Shannon is practically denuded of trees. It would be of great importance that the Forestry Department should see whether they could get the kind of tree that would withstand the breezes from the western and southern ocean. On the whole I am satisfied that this Department of afforestation is worthy of support. The money spent on it is money well spent; it gives good employment and it will give a good return. I am glad to see that there is an increased amount provided by way of grants to private persons and public bodies for planting trees. That shows that there is more appreciation from private persons of the need for growing trees to beautify the countryside. I think that even still the amount set apart this year, £700, is too small and I hope it will grow and also that the people generally will appreciate that there is a great deal of help available from the Department towards encouraging the growing of trees. I hope an effort will be made to make that even better known and have it brought home to all the people with available land. The whole work of the Forestry Department is one which, in my opinion, should appeal very strongly to everyone who has the interests of the country at heart.
General MacEoin General MacEoin
General MacEoin: There are one or two points that I would like to raise on this Vote. First of all I want to ask the Minister if he would tell us the cause of the delay in proceeding with the afforestation schemes in Glenahall, Glenadagh and other districts in the County Longford? An extensive portion of land was examined some years ago for the purpose of afforestation, in  that area, but I notice that nothing has since been done. I am aware that the land is perfectly suitable and there is an extensive amount of it—700 to 1,000 acres. That is a very bleak area and plantations there would be very beneficial to the county. In other areas of North Longford, substantial areas of land are available and I appeal to the Minister to direct the attention of his inspectors to these areas with a view to their reafforestation. Prior to the big war of 1914-18 we had large wooded tracts in the County Longford but during the war these were cut down and taken away by contractors and others. The result is that the once nicely wooded countryside is now very bleak. I am satisfied that the fertility of the adjoining lands has been seriously injured by the removal of this timber. I urge the Minister that in a special case like this he would agree to the taking of smaller areas than 300-acre sections for planting. In that district the farms are very small. The majority of the holders are smallholders and it is therefore very difficult to get a 300-acre belt. It appears that is the minimum that the forestry branch will consider. However, in a district like Longford and North Longford in particular I would urge the Minister to review that figure of 300 acres. Even though it may not be an economic proposition at the moment, eventually it will be money well spent in restoring the fertility of the land and in giving employment in the district where employment is so badly needed. I regret to say that I do not feel myself in a position to pay any tribute one way or another to the forestry branch of the Department because the amount of activity in which they have indulged in Longford is not as much as I would like to see. When they proceed with tree-planting with more vigour and especially when they proceed with the planting of less than 300-acre belts, I will try to join the tributes that have been paid to this branch of the Department this evening.
Minister for Lands (Mr. Derrig) Thomas Derrig
Minister for Lands (Mr. Derrig): Deputy Dillon and Deputy Hughes have put before the House the principle of men versus trees. Deputy Hughes also referred to the difficulties  of the forestry branch which I had previously mentioned in acquiring land by reason of claims from local graziers. As Deputies who have listened for years to the debates on afforestation will easily understand, reasonably good land is required for tree planting. The type of land which may grow trees and even belts of timber may not be sufficiently good to grow forests on an economic scale. What we have to bear in mind is that very considerable sums of money are being spent on planting and we want to see that when the time comes and these plantations have become mature, the country will reap a proper return from that expenditure. Land that is not reasonably fertile will not give that return. After a number of years it will be quite clear that the crop it gives is not going to be profitable. This branch has tried therefore to secure reasonably good land for its operations. Undoubtedly, there is a certain demand in the country that arable land which the forestry branch has been trying to acquire, or has acquired, should be divided amongst local persons who require it for ordinary agricultural purposes. But as Deputy Moore has very properly pointed out, if we are going to admit the principle that the forestry branch is not going to be allowed to secure suitable land which it requires or that it may not proceed to plant such suitable land after it has incurred expense, trouble and time in taking it over, that would be really making afforestation operations very difficult. There is, I need hardly say, a considerable amount of work in settling questions of title in acquiring these lands.
Unfortunately in the western areas we cannot go as far as we would like in the matter of afforestation schemes. It has, I think, already been explained to the House that the experts who have had this question under examination for a considerable time, and who have visited practically all those areas, are of opinion that from the point of view of large-scale afforestation work on an economic basis, it would be very difficult indeed to do much in some of the western areas. These experts have had experience,  as practical administrative workers in this country over a long period of years, and are, in addition, men of the highest scientific standing in the work. Apart from the difficulty that a great many of these areas, which are suggested as suitable, are wind-swept, very exposed, and therefore extremely unlikely to be suitable for afforestation, you have the trouble also that the soil is not suitable. One may find certain areas in patches here and there reasonably sheltered, but the number of cases— Deputies who know the circumstances will themselves realise this—where there are also good soil foundations for planting, are comparatively limited. The Government and the branch would be only too happy to do more in these areas, but we have to keep in mind that a return is expected from this work, and it is our duty to see that the money which the Oireachtas places at our disposal is spent to the best advantage.
The case which Deputy Hughes cited is an example of the obstacles with which the Department has to contend in dealing with the claims of local graziers. That particular case occurred before I became responsible for the branch. It appears that a number of tenants who were in the habit of taking grazing from the owner claimed, after the place had been taken over and the branch was about to start operations, that they had certain rights. If the Department has waived its rights as the legal owner and given up its programme of planting in such cases, that does not mean that we are in the future going tamely to submit, after we have acquired land for planting and have gone to considerable expense in taking it over, to local claims which do not appear to have any legal foundation. The economic position of local people is taken into consideration by the very large and expensive Department for which I happen to be responsible at the moment—the Land Commission. I dare say that Deputy Hughes would be one of the first to complain that the Land Commission was, perhaps, too active and was extending its operations too widely in the country. We  have heard that complaint frequently. Here is a large organisation which exists for the purpose of satisfying, so far as possible, the needs of uneconomic holders of the smaller type and for making land available for them. It does not seem fair, when the Forestry Branch takes over land, largely for the purpose of giving employment in the area and benefiting the district, that it should meet with these obstacles. I would not say so much about the matter were it not that there is such a large amount of land in dispute at the present time—about 4,800 acres. That is a very large proportion of the reserve of land which we have and, at least, 3,500 acres of that would be planted if the local people who claim to have these rights, which are very doubtful from the legal standpoint, would allow the branch to proceed. There is another important point at issue—whether Deputies and the community see clearly that it is the community that suffers in cases of this kind. A small number of individuals may benefit, if they succeed in having their claims upheld, but the community as a whole, and particularly the taxpayer, loses. A great deal more is required in the way of educating the public to appreciate that, when damage is done either by setting up claims of this nature or by destroying the property of the Forestry Branch or impeding the functions which it has to perform, it is the community which suffers. In the first place, it suffers financial loss. In the second place, if a wrong state of mind is allowed to prevail in connection with afforestation or any other operations under Government auspices, where is it going to stop?
Deputy Kennedy referred to the question of felling. It is the policy of the Department to insist upon replanting where felling takes place. Every day I am signing orders for prosecutions, but neither that fact nor the fact that a considerable number of cases is being reported to us by the Gárda necessarily means that all cases in which felling is illegally taking place have come under notice. The Forestry Act, 1928, requires that no tree be felled without the prior lodgment  of a felling notice. Approximately 3,000 notices are received each year and, of these, about 90 per cent. are allowed to go unquestioned. In those cases, however, in which a large number of trees are involved or which constitute a large proportion of the total number of trees on the holding, it is necessary to have an inspection made in order to ascertain whether the felling may be permitted in whole or in part and whether any replanting condition should be imposed. The difficulty of importing timber under present conditions and the greatly increased cost of seed timber has stimulated the demand for native timber, preferably in large lots, and so has increased considerably the work thrown on the forestry division by the Act. The position is that any action in restraint of felling must be taken within 21 days of the date of the lodgment of the felling notice and as, in view of the numbers of cases now being dealt with and the limited number of inspectors available, it is not possible to ensure inspection and report within the period, prohibition orders are issued in all cases where inspection is considered necessary. The Gárdaí are requested, when serving such orders, to notify applicants that such is being done pending inspection, but sometimes applicants are under the impression, which may be quite wrong, that felling has been definitely and finally forbidden.
Deputies who remember the wholesale felling of timber during the last war and the lack of replanting to replace the timber felled will agree that this must not be allowed to occur again. The number of inspectors available for this work, is, however, limited and these officers have a considerable amount of other work to do in connection with the purchase of land for State planting and the supervision of the existing forest areas, so that it is not always possible to deal immediately with all the notices received but every effort is being made to reduce delays to a minimum. Applicants themselves can assist to this end by seeing that the trees to be felled are plainly marked.
To meet the increased demand for  native timber, the forestry division is putting on the market as many lots of timber as possible compatible with sylvicultural requirements. Trees have occasionally to be retained on an area for shelter or amenity purposes or for seeding purposes where natural regeneration can be effected and the cost of planting saved. The Department is not, however, prepared to allow timber merchants to select individual trees here and there throughout the woods to suit their own immediate requirements. Timber will generally be sold only in blocks to clear the ground for replanting. Private owners would be well advised to adopt a similar procedure. The removal of the best trees in any wood means usually that when the owner comes to sell the remainder he gets only a very poor price and finds the cost of replanting excessive.
Deputy Kennedy referred to the slowness in dealing with correspondence. All I can say is that the inspectors are very busy and can scarcely cope with the additional work that has been imposed upon them in connection with the inspection of lands to be acquired and also in connection with felling. Not alone is there a yearly growth in the total acreage under timber, but the amount of thinnings that has to be dealt with is increasing considerably. Last year, for example, 1,000 acres had to be thinned, and that takes up a considerable amount of the inspectors' time. I would ask Deputies, therefore, to have a little patience and, if there are some delays in connection with the acquisition of land or in connection with the felling of trees, to remember that the inspectors are doing the best they can. I know that the Forestry Branch is doing its utmost under the new conditions, and I have not heard any great complaints with regard to slowness in dealing with the acquisition of land.
Deputy MacEoin referred to a case in Longford. It does not seem that the particular lands referred to there have been acquired. The prices that the Forestry Branch are prepared to offer there, and which they consider right, are, evidently, not considered sufficiently attractive, and we prefer to  acquire land by voluntary agreement so far as possible. If suitable areas could be acquired, even though they be far below 300 acres in extent, so long as they are within easy distance of a forestry centre, I am sure that the Forestry Branch would be very glad to investigate the possibility of acquiring such lands. We are constantly acquiring lands—in Wicklow, for example— which are much less in extent than 300 acres, but we only acquire such lands where they are adjacent to a forestry centre. In such a case it might be economical to acquire such lands, whereas there might be other cases where it might not be an economic proposition to take over an area for forestry purposes, even though a great deal more than 300 acres might be available.
Deputy O'Neill referred to certain types of hard wood. I think that Deputies may rest assured that, whereever the lands are suitable for the cultivation of such woods, the Forestry Branch will do its utmost to see that hard wood is planted in a fair proportion. About 12 per cent. hard wood is being planted at present.
Deputy Dockrell referred to the Appropriations-in-Aid. It is quite true that the amount mentioned in the Supplementary Estimate, taken last November or December, has been exceeded. The Estimate, which was set down at £12,000 then, was made out under somewhat different conditions to those which now obtain. We were not aware then that prices would increase at the rate at which they have increased, but in any case the amount of sales would have been controlled to approximate to the Estimate of £12,000, as the quantity of timber in the hands of the Forestry Branch, which is matured and marketable, is a very limited quantity indeed. The resources of the branch are not large; they are very limited, and it is necessary to ration out the amounts which are for sale, but owing to pressure from various sources, that more timber should be placed on the market, since the last Supplementary Estimate was introduced the income has exceeded the Estimate very substantially and should approach somestantiall  thing like £17,500 for the current year. There is a considerable demand—and we hope that it will be a very profitable one—for pit timber. The Forestry Branch is going into the question of the supply of such timber, and it is possible that a very profitable series of transactions may result.
Deputy Dockrell also referred to the matter of income-tax in this connection. I think I may say that the Forestry Branch will be very glad to give any land owner particulars as to the Schedules under which a private woodland owner may be assessed for income-tax in this regard. Of course, the Revenue Commissioners are the real authority in such matters, but the Department will be glad to advise such owners who contemplate planting as to how they may secure legitimate relief from income-tax. I should be glad if Deputy Dockrell, or any other person, would send me particulars of owners of such land who would be prepared to pay the Department for carrying on plantation work for them, and I shall have the matter investigated. We would be only too glad to encourage private owners, and to give them all the assistance in our power to enable them to go on with planting work. I think, Sir, that these are the chief points to be dealt with.
Vote agreed to.
Dáil Éireann 79 Supplementary and Additional Estimates. Vote 55—Forestry (Resumed).