Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed has said it would "not be appropriate or reasonable to halt the issuing of (forestry) licences in any county".
His comments come following a Dáil question put forward by Deputy Eamon Scanlon.
In it the Fianna Fáil TD asked the minister his views on considering calling a temporary halt to issuing conifer licenses for planting in Leitrim until the government commissioned report on forestry in the county is completed later this summer.
Responding, Minister Creed said: "The Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme is a voluntary and demand led scheme. While national targets exist, there are no county or regional targets. This is a national programme and therefore does not distinguish between beneficiaries on the basis of the location of the land to be planted. This has been a feature of all national Forestry Programmes to date.
Minister Creed said the scheme is entirely exchequer funded and operates under State Aid rules.
"The legal basis for the scheme is the Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020. To halt the issuing of licences in a particular county would represent a change to the Forestry Programme. Furthermore, any person applying for approval to plant would have a legitimate expectation that they may be permitted to do so and that they would receive the same treatment as all other applicants. There are also existing applications at all stages in the planning system where applicants have invested time and resources in the preparation of these. Such applications were submitted in good faith and must be treated the same as any other application. In view of these considerations, it would not be appropriate or reasonable to halt the issuing of licences in any county.
"In terms of overall afforestation policy, I await with interest the outcome of the study on afforestation in Co Leitrim, which was announced recently by my colleague, Minister of State, Andrew Doyle, and which will inform the local community, policy-makers and other interested parties."