The independent body tasked with ruling on whether public authorities are within their rights to restrict access to environmental information has reported a 2022 spike in forestry sector activity centred on Coillte and the Department of Agriculture.
Last year, there were 369 cases to overturn rejected access to environmental information, up by over 150% from 2021.
The commissioner for environmental information ruled in favour of public authorities’ decisions in just over 3% of all cases and annulled the authorities’ decisions in 93% of cases closed.
Some 257 appeals related to forestry, with the Department failing in 63 cases to deliver a decision on whether it would release information within the statutory time limit and Coillte failing to do so 178 times. There was only 28 forestry-related appeals in total over 2021.
Common forestry requests include information on felling licenses, afforestation licenses and forestry data displayed in a digital map format.
The appeal commissions office stated that it is “difficult for us to know the reasons for such an upsurge” in its 2022 report.
“We are, of course, aware of the sensitivities surrounding forestry matters, including the preservation of habitats for certain species and biodiversity issues,” it said.
Public authorities are bound by law to provide the reasons for any decisions to refuse providing a member of the public with environment related to its activities and the environment.
There are time limits laid out in law for it to meet in responding to requests for this information.