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UK - Forestry Commission leading fight against killer tree disease
The Forestry Commission is continuing to lead the fight against the tree disease, Phytophthora ramorum, that has been infecting Japanese larch trees in forests across the South West.

Acting on the best available scientific advice, the Forestry Commission is carrying out a programme of felling infected trees on public and private land as the most effective means of controlling further spread of the disease.

A current large-scale example of such felling for disease control is now underway on land managed by the Forestry Commission in the Glyn Valley in Cornwall. Further felling operations are also in train in Plym Woods on the edge of Plymouth; Lydford on the edge of Dartmoor. Felling will also soon start at Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor, which is managed by South West Lakes Trust.

The Forestry Commission is repeating its earlier requests to landowners and woodland managers to remain vigilant and boost our efforts to contain the disease by reporting any suspected signs of infection in their woodland.

Chris Marrow, Forest Management Director from the Forestry Commission’s Peninsula district said:

“No one, least of all the Forestry Commission, wants to see trees and woodland cut down unnecessarily – ahead of their natural time for harvesting - and leaving exposed bare landscapes on a scale greater than through routine, planned rotations. Unfortunately, our scientific advice is that felling infected trees is the best method for controlling this disease and so preventing further damage.
We are seeking to minimise the impacts of this highly infectious disease on landowners and the landscape as best we can – simply by seeking to contain it. But also from the outset, we have been working closely with private landowners and their representative bodies to keep them informed about the disease, the symptoms to look out for, and to explain and agree the necessary control and biosecurity measures . For owners who find they have infected trees we have secured a limited fund and depending on the progression of the disease we may have to target support to sites that pose the greatest risk of spread to uninfected areas.

We have been greatly assisted by the vigilance and support of private woodland owners in helping us detect and seek to limit the spread of this disease.”

The Forestry Commission is acutely aware of the potential negative economic impacts this disease could have on the forest sector overall and individual woodland owners in particular. Hence our urgent and ongoing efforts to stop the disease spreading further.

In addition, working with colleagues in Defra and Fera, we have put together a support package with limited funds to help woodland owners having to contend with the disease and its impacts, including:

- Setting up a network of agents who can provide professional advice and practical expertise for owners having to carry out felling for disease control

- Providing financial support for the clearing of infected immature Japanese larch trees which are too small to have any commercial value for timber.

- Getting agreement from saw mills to accept timber from infected mature trees felled for disease control – so enabling owners to achieve some income return on their costs. This has been done on the basis of scientific advice establishing that there is minimal risk of disease spread from transporting and processing logs from infected trees – as long as biosecurity measures have been followed.

Chris Marrow continued:

“In affected forests such as Plym Woods, visitors can help us with biosecurity by following some simple guidelines displayed on signs in the forest. This includes keeping to the stone paths, keeping dogs on short leads and cleaning footwear and bikes before leaving the forest. We want people to continue enjoying the woods but by taking these small steps they will help enormously in our fight the spread of the disease. Of course, there will be some parts of the forest that will be out of bounds while we carry out felling but we will work hard to keep any disruption to the public to an absolute minimum. People familiar with our woods will be used to this as all of our forests are working, sustainably managed forests, which means a regular cycle of felling and planting.

“Private landowners also have a big part to play. We need them to remain extremely vigilant and regularly inspect their own woodlands where they have Japanese larch. It is essential that any suspected P ramorum outbreak is reported to us. There is a range of advice and help available to landowners on the Forestry Commission website www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum. We are here to help and people with any concerns can contact us at any time to discuss any issues they are having.”

Source: Forestry Commission

Jul 2010


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