Forest Service

Management and accountability

The Chief Executive is responsible to the Minister for the Agency's operations and performance. The Minister determines the policy framework within which the Agency operates, the level of resources made available each year and the scope of our activities. The Minister also approves the annual Business Plan.

The Forest Service became an Agency on 1 April 1998. The Agency's Framework Document sets out the context within which it operates. This includes its role, business objectives, performance measures, relationship with the Department and its accountability to the Minister and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The aims of the Agency set out in the Framework Document are:

“to supply timber, to provide public access to forests and protect forest environments, to enhance plant health and standards of production, and to work with partners to deliver public services and promote economic development”.

Forest Service Management Board

The Forest Service Management Board consists of the Directors of the Agency. (Under the Agency structure Directors are NICS grade 6 or 7 and Heads of Branch /Function are DP level). Normally, the Board will meet 6 times per year and meetings will be chaired by the Chief Executive who is the Chief Forest officer and Agency Accounting Officer. Exceptionally, the CE will appoint a deputy. Members are expected to place a priority on attendance although there will be no quorum.

From 1st January 2019 membership is:

Executive Directors

  • Chief Executive (John Joe O’Boyle, MICFor,)
  • Director of Forestry (Vacant**)
  • Director of Plant Health (Vacant**)
  • Head of Corporate Services (Vacant**)

** G7’s deputising until further notice

Non-executive Members

  • Kevin Hegarty
  • Brandon McMaster

The Secretariat is provided by FSMB Corporate Services Branch who organise meetings, commission papers, track returns, finalise and circulate agendas and papers, keep minutes of meetings and communicate Board decisions for action and information. The Secretariat will normally circulate papers to give time for three working days consideration before a meeting.

From time to time other members of the Agency, DAERA or other organisations may be invited to attend the Board, for the purposes of presenting a paper, to aid communication between the Agency and the Department, or such other purpose as the Chair thinks fit.

Chief Executive (Chair)

The Chief Executive is responsible to the Minister for the Agency’s operations and performance. The Minister determines the policy framework within which the Agency operates, the level of resources made available each year and the scope of its activities. The Minister approves the Business Plan; sets key performance targets and monitors the Agency’s performance against its targets.

Director of Forestry

The Director is responsible for forest policy and development of state and private forests, forest operations, forestry standards, the Health and Safety arrangements for those working in or present on state forests, and influencing improvements in the safety culture of the forestry sector.

Director of Plant Health

The Director is responsible for agriculture, horticulture and forestry plant health matters in Northern Ireland and, with the Chief Executive, representing NI in the UK Plant Health Service. The Director is also responsible for seed certification and bee health, and plant marketing standards. These responsibilities include policy development and legislation, and inspection and enforcement programmes.

Head of Corporate Services

The post holder is responsible for Governance, Financial and HR matters within the Agency, including corporate support to the Agency Board. This includes leading on business planning, audit and risk, co-ordination and organisational change.

Non-Executive Members

The non-Executive Members (NEM’s) are appointed to bring fresh perspective, experience and an independent and constructive challenge to the process of managing Forest Service. NEM’s will:

  • contribute to the delivery of strong organisational governance, ensuring the organisation is operating in the public interest and in a transparent and ethical way to fulfil its objectives
  • help to plan for the future to improve services and organisational effectiveness
  • ensure that the management team meets its key performance targets and hold it to account
  • ensure that the finances of the organisation are managed properly with accurate, robust information
  • help the Board to keep its stakeholders and customers properly informed
  • serve on important board committees, principally the Agency Audit and Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC), according to the principles set out by DoF 

Board terms of reference

The core purpose of the Forest Service Board is to provide, subject to the overriding responsibility of the Accounting Officer (The Chief Executive), corporate level strategic direction and leadership to the organisation’s operation staff and financial management, within the parameters of policy set by and in consultation with the Minister. Its primary function is therefore to set the corporate business agenda and ensure that the organisation delivers in terms of its strategic goals. The Board is also responsible for the assessment and management of the risks associated with delivery of the Service’s functions.

Members advise the Chief Executive, who is fully accountable for all the Agency’s actions and decisions.

The Board is collectively responsible for the delivery of the Public Service Agreement (PSA) and Service Delivery Agreement (SDA).

It is the role of the Board to communicate the vision, role, direction and priorities of Forest Service to staff and other stakeholders and to ensure effective allocation and management of its staff and financial resources.

Members support the Accounting Officer (Chief Executive) in the operation of sound corporate governance and risk management procedures which secure and protect the resources under their control.

The role of the Board includes monitoring and improving Forest Service’s performance and protecting and enhancing its reputation.

The Board monitors resource requirements and determines bids made to DoF for additional resources and easements declared through an annual budget process and In Year monitoring rounds. It also allocates the budget and monitors expenditure to ensure the most effective deployment of resources.

The Board operates within the parameters of policy set by the Minister and in consultation with the Minister as necessary. The Chief Executive is the Minister’s principal source of advice on forestry policy and other executive members of the Board also offer advice, individually and jointly. The Board itself is not however a source of policy advice, although it will advise on the implementation of policy.

The Board sets the direction of organisational change management issues and monitors progress and targets associated with this.

The Board maintains a transparent system of prudent and effective controls, including internal controls.

The Board leads and oversees the process of change, encouraging innovation and where appropriate enterprise, to enhance the Agency’s capacity to deliver.

The Terms of Reference will be reviewed annually by the Management Board in the context of their review of the Agency’s Business Plan and Risk Register / Management Plan.


There is one formal Committee of the Board, the Forest Service Audit and Risk Assurance Committee. Sub-committees are constituted as business dictates.

Link between the Forest Service Agency and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

Under the terms of the Forestry Act (Northern Ireland) 2010, the Department is responsible for promoting the interests of forestry in Northern Ireland, the development of afforestation, the production and supply of timber and the maintenance of adequate resources of growing trees. There are separate legislative provisions for Forest Service to deal with afforestation, deforestation, roads construction and quarrying proposals and in respect of the treatment of wood and bark in the Plant Health Directive.

The Forest Service is not legislatively separate from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), but its particular responsibilities are set out in the Framework Document approved by the Minister. The ethos of establishing executive agencies was to facilitate decision making and to provide customer focus in the delivery of Government services. While the Permanent Secretary is the Principal Accounting Officer for the Department, certain flexibilities are delegated to the Agency’s Chief Executives, who has been appointed as Agency Accounting Officers. The Agency Accounting Officer’s responsibilities are set out in detail in a letter of appointment by the Principal Accounting Officer, including personal responsibility to sign the Agency Accounts and to publish these in a form and to a timetable prescribed by DoF.

Under accountability the Agency Chief Executive may be required to appear before the Public Accounts Committee. Agencies prepare separate Corporate and Business Plans (with key targets for achievement) and Annual Reports, all of which are approved by the Minister. Targets are formulated to provide a link to Departmental objectives as detailed in the DAERA Business Strategy. Agencies also maintain customer charters.

Induction and development of Board members

The level and content of induction will be proportionate to the experience and status of new Board Members and will be tailored to their individual needs. It is to be expected that if the Board member is an existing employee of Forest Service, or is from a forestry background, as in the case of the recent Non-Executive Director appointment, the member will already have a good platform of understanding and knowledge with which to discharge the role. If a Non-Executive Director is from any other background there will be a need for a more formal and substantial induction that includes an Induction Pack. In these instances, it is expected that the new member will normally undergo a course in corporate governance aimed at new director appointees, unless in the case of the Non-Executive Director this training has been received in respect of a previous or existing director position. Consideration will also be given to the offering of courses for Audit Committee members and in respect of systems of Internal Control.


Final minutes of Forest Service Board meetings are issued to Members and also placed on the Forest Service Intranet site, allowing access by staff. In addition, each Board member communicates further detail on relevant issues to the staff within his own command.

Management meetings within each Business area provide staff with an opportunity to propose items for discussion at Board meetings, subject to the approval and judgement of the appropriate Director.

Forest Service functions

From April 2017, the Agency has reorganised its operating model structure based on functions. The Functions and the work areas within these are:

Forest Management and Inspection Services

  • Forest Management and Inspection
    • Stewardship and Inspection
    • Forest Regeneration
    • Recreation
    • Operational Services and Contracts Coordination
  • Harvesting and Engineering
  • Forest Management Administration and Project Coordination
  • Management and Development

Forest Policy, Regulation, and Development

  • Forestry Strategy, Planning and Silviculture
  • Policy, Regulation, Grants and Health and Safety
  • Marketing and Timber Sales

Plant Health

  • Plant Health Policy
  • Plant Health Inspection
  • EU Exit

Corporate Services

  • Corporate Finance
  • Corporate Governance, Services and Projects
  • Chief Executives office 

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