Key documents concerned with the regulation of forests and forestry practices on water quality in Ireland are as follows:
Forests and Water Quality Guidelines – Guidelines developed by the Forest Service through extensive consultation with a wide range of relevant parties. They set out sound and practical measures based on the principles of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and are based on the best available scientific information. The Guidelines describe a range of measures intended to cover all situations relating to forestry and water quality. Forest owners are required to adhere to the guidelines which apply to all grant-aided projects and to all activities associated with a Felling Licence.
Forestry and Aerial Fertilisation Requirements – The Requirements outline procedures and operational requirements for the aerial application of fertiliser in Irish forests in compliance with S.I> 592 of 2006/ S.I. No. 790 and based on current best practice and knowledge.
These Statutory Instruments bring into effect the EU Council Directive No. 76/464/EEC of 4 May 1976 on pollution caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into the aquatic environment of the Community, in so far as the Directive relates to the aerial fertilisation of forests in Ireland.
Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements – This document was developed by the Forest Service through public consultation, in order to assist in the protection and conservation of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel (FPM) and its habitat. The Requirements apply to all potentially impacting forest operations within the catchments of FPM populations in rivers designated candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSACs) for the species. They describe a range of measures intended to reduce potential negative impacts on the species arising from forest operations and supplement all other Forest Service Guidelines and regulations which contribute to the protection and enhancement of water quality.
EU Water Framework Directive
The EU Water Framework Directive is an important piece of EU environmental legislation which aims at improving our water environment. It requires governments to take a new holistic approach to managing their waters which include rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuaries and coastal waters. Member States must aim to achieve Good Ecological Status in all waters by 2015 and must ensure that status does not deteriorate in any waters.
Water bodies are at risk from a number of different human activities such as discharges from waste water treatment plants, agriculture, urban development, abstraction, etc. Forestry has been identified as one of the key pressures on water bodies. Although contributing to the overall nutrient load in waters the amounts are low in comparison with other land uses. For example, agriculture contributes 33% to the phosphate load while forestry only 5%. Never-the-less, the fact that forestry is a potential risk to water bodies requires that it be taken into consideration in the management of catchments.
In achieving Good Ecological Status water quality management will be centred on river basins, which are natural geographical areas that occur in the landscape. Management of these basins will be achieved through management plans, a plan being created for each River Basin District.
Characterisation Reports are required for every River Basin District. These reports give an account of each basin, including the pressures and impacts caused by humans. The report is necessary to work out whether such effects are likely to inhibit the achievement of good status.
The scientific assessment of the river basin that is contained in the Characterisation Report is vital for the production of the “Programme of Measures”. The Programme of Measures consists of policies and strategies, such as monitoring programmes, that are intended to reduce the risk to water bodies and allow them to attain good status.
River Basin Management Plan
The River Basin Management Plan is a detailed account of how the objectives set for the river basin (ecological status, quantitative status, chemical status and protected area objectives) are to be reached within the timescale required. The plan includes the river basin’s characteristics, a review of the impact of human activity on the status of waters in the basin, estimation of the effect of existing legislation and the remaining “gap” to meeting these objectives; and a set of measures designed to fill the gap. One additional component is that an economic analysis of water use within the river basin must be carried out. This is to enable there to be a rational discussion on the cost-effectiveness of the various possible measures. It is essential that all interested parties are fully involved in this discussion, and indeed in the preparation of the river basin management plan as a whole.
Characterisation Reports are prepared for every River Basin District. The Reports, based on readily available information, are a description and scientific assessment of each basin based on identified pressures and impacts arising from human activity acting on the water bodies within the basin. The assessment is required to ascertain whether such impacts are likely to prevent the achievement of Good Ecological Status by 2015. The assessment informs the design of “Programme of Measures” required to reduce the risk to such water bodies.
The National Characterisation Report identified forestry as one of the key pressures which should be addressed in the Water Framework Directive River Basin Management Plans and Programme of Measures.
Programme of Measures for Forestry
Under the Water Framework Directive, River Basin Management Plans must include a set of management measures aimed at achieving Good Ecological Status by 2015. The required Programme of Measures (POM) (Water Framework Directive Article 11) can be divided into two broad categories, Basic Measures and Supplementary Measures.
- Basic Measures are listed in Annex VI, Part A of the WFD. These are “obligatory” and include measures required to implement existing Community legislation for the protection of water, (EU Directives and statutory obligations associated with their implementation), they may also require new additional legislation. Examples relevant to forestry are the Aerial Fertilisation Regulations and Fresh Water Pearl Mussel Requirements.
- Supplementary measures are optional but not exhaustive. Examples are provided in the directive (Annex VI, Part B), such as; administrative arrangements, economic or fiscal instruments, environmental agreements, emission controls, codes of good practice, recreation and restoration of wetlands and rehabilitation projects.
A Programme of Measures for Forestry has been developed by a Forests and Water Working Group with collaborative input from Government Departments and Agencies, Local Authorities, Coillte, Regional Fishery Boards and the River Basin Districts.
Supplementary measures have been identified to mitigate against the key pressures associated with forests and forest operations. The measures are all technically feasible and are expected to be used in combination in any one location with the most appropriate measures being selected on a site by site basis.
Measures have been divided in sub categories as follows:
- Management related instruments
- Acidification measures
- Eutrophication measures
- Sedimentation measures
- Hydromorphological measures
- Pesticide uses measures
These measures are to be applied, where necessary, in addition to the Code of Best Forest Practice and the Forest and Water Quality Guidelines.