Time to go thin on top

Time to go thin on top

There are a large number of forestry plantations in the midland counties that are approaching 1st thinning stage.

Why thin? It is important to thin a plantation at the correct time - TOO EARLY and the crop may not have enough timber volumes to cover harvesting expenses – TOO LATE and plantation may be past thinning and wind blow could be a threat.

The optimum time for first thinnings is between 16 years and 20 years of age for an average Sitka Spruce plantation. There are also many plantations that are not suitable for thinnings due to exposure, species mixture or access issues. It may be more advisable not to thin these plantations and clearfell them when the crop is mature. If you are unsure of how to manage your plantation Green Belt Ltd will access your site to check its suitability for thinning.


Once the forestry has reached thicket stage and the canopy of the trees has closed. It is important to access the internal crop to evaluate the trees within the boundaries.

Access paths

Brash paths are required to access the trees. These ideally should be distributed approximately 100metres apart in large plantations. In smaller plantations varying in size it is best to put an access path through the middle of the forest plot where feasible. Green Belt have qualified chainsaw operators to carry out this operation. Ideally the tree line should be brashed up to 2m in height both sides of the line. Avoid cutting into the tree bark and only cut the branches.

Felling Licence

It is a legal requirement to have a Felling license before trees are cut. Contact Green Belt Ltd if you have any queries about applying for a felling license.

Road Application

The Forest Service amended the Forest Road scheme with effect from 1st January 2015

A forest management plan must be submitted in support of all forest road applications at the time of approval

A feeling licence GFL number must be given with the application

50% of the forest area or greater must be due for harvesting within 3 years

A Special construction works (SCW) is also available currently and this is eligible for grant aid at a maximum value of €5,000 per application or 50% of the cost of the SCW whichever is the smaller.

Who is eligible to apply for Road grants

Any private owner of forestry Must be 18 years of age and hold a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN).

Companies provide their (CRO number).

A qualified forester must apply for the Forest Road grant on behslf of the forest owner.

Thinning/harvesting must be imminent or will take place within three years.

How much will it cost?

Up to 100% of eligible costs incurred in the construction of a forest road are available to apply for under the forest Road grant.

The grant is paid in two instalments 90% when road is constructed and approved by Forest Service. The second instalment (remaining 10%) is paid when the timber has been thinned and again verified by the Forest Service.

How many metres of road can I apply for?

20 metres of linear road per hectare of forest area.

For example if a forest owner has 10 hectares then he/she can apply for 200 metres of road grant.

If a longer road is required the permission to construct non grant aid additional metres – permission/approval from the Forest Service must still be applied for.

Timber Markets

The market for timber product is strong with good demand for sawlog, pallet and stake material.

The other product which in first thinnings can consist of up to 50% of timber volumes is pulp wood. This is the lower grade timber product which is unsuitable for processing in sawmills.

It is vitally important to remove these suppressed lighter trees form the forestry so that the remaining higher quality trees will increase in volume and girth due to the greater availability of light in the canopy and also space and nutrients.

There are new markets opening up for pulpwood in the energy markets and this will greatly increase demand for pulp product.


Along with harvesting the plantation correctly to make sure the correct amount of trees are selected and removed.

Security is paramount - the forest owner has grown and protected the forest to date. It is now vital to paid for each log that is selected - harvested, brought to road side and sold in the mill.

We in Green Belt use CCTV on all our sites and our docket system insures that all timber loads are accounted for.

Gates - Barriers

The forest owner is always advised to construct a barrier/fence or gate to discourage any unsociable behaviour or dumping in the wood.