Woodland owners can apply to fell larch once again as Forestry Commission Wales has lifted its temporary embargo on issuing licences.
Applications for licences will begin to be processed again from today (1 June).
The embargo on issuing licences over the winter months was part of the ongoing fight against the spread of ramorum disease of larch, caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum.
Larch trees need to be in full leaf for symptoms of ramorum disease to be identified. However, during the winter once the trees have dropped their needles, it is difficult to confirm if they are infected.
Now the trees have flushed with new needles, any infected trees can be identified before felling and appropriate biosecurity measures can be put in place to avoid spreading the disease to other trees or plants.
Rachel Chamberlain, Grants and Regulations Operations Manager, Forestry Commission Wales, said, "Having considered several options last year, we decided to adopt a short-term embargo on applications for a felling licence, where larch trees were a component.
"Our approach was taken on board by woodland owners and we only received six applications involving larch during that time.
"I would like to thank woodland owners and managers alike for their co-operation and I can assure them that we will be pulling out the stops to process applications as quickly as possible from the beginning of June."
The approach in Wales followed the introduction of a joint Forestry Commission England and Forestry Commission Wales policy in connection with the processing of felling licence applications for larch over the winter months.
Kath McNulty, National Manager for Wales, Confederation of Forest Industries (ConFor), said, "Forest owners will welcome being able to apply for felling licences for larch trees.
"Ramorum disease does not harm the timber and there is no risk of spreading the disease from wood that has been processed.
"It is therefore essential that we continue to manage these important woodlands."
Ramorum disease of larch is caused by a fungus-like pathogen that kills many of the trees that it infects. It was first discovered on larch trees in Great Britain in 2009 in South West England. It was then found on larch in Welsh Government woodlands in South Wales in June 2010.
Infected Japanese larch trees produce particularly high numbers of the spores that spreads the disease – significantly more than the level produced on rhododendron - meaning the disease can quickly affect a large number of trees and shrubs.
Further information about ramorum disease can be found on the Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Phytophthora ramorum is a ‘quarantine’ organism under European Union law and its suspected presence must be notified to the relevant authorities (the Forestry Commission, Fera, the Welsh Government or the Scottish Government). It was first found in Britain on a viburnum plant in a nursery in 2002.
2. Phytophthora ramorum can kill many of the plants that it infects, but symptoms vary according to the species. On Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi) trees, it causes shoot tips to wilt and needles to turn black and fall prematurely. Cankers that bleed resin can appear on the branches and upper trunk. Infected Japanese larch trees produce particularly high numbers of the spores that spread the disease – five times the level produced on rhododendron - meaning the disease can quickly affect a large number of trees and shrubs.
3. Phytophthora ramorum can be spread on footwear, vehicle wheels, tools and machinery that have been used in infected forests, or by the movement of infected plants. It can also be spread in rain splash, mists and air currents.
4. Phytophthora ramorum was first discovered on Japanese larch trees in Great Britain in 2009 in South West England. It was then found on larch in South Wales in June 2010 in public woodlands in the Afan Valley, near Port Talbot, in the Garw Valley, near Bridgend and in the Vale of Glamorgan. Felling of infected larch trees in South Wales has taken place over the last few months and Forestry Commission Wales is working with timber processors and others to ensure biosecurity measures are in place to allow logs from the infected trees to be taken to mills for conversion into timber.
6. Phytophthora ramorum is not harmful to humans or animals.
7. About 14 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government. Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf. Forestry Commission Wales provides advice on forestry policy to the Minister responsible for forestry. It provides grant aid to other woodland owners and regulates forestry by issuing felling licences. It is also part of Forestry Commission GB and contributes to the international forestry agenda. More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales.
For information about Phytophthora ramorum:
• in Wales - Mary Galliers firstname.lastname@example.org, 0300 068 0300;
• in Great Britain overall – Charlton Clark email@example.com; 0131 314 6500