Forestry Commission find £600,000 to help larch owners hit by Phytophthora ramorum

Woodland owners are to be given access to a £600,000 support package to help tackle the outbreak of Phytophthora ramorum infection in larch trees in South West England and South Wales.

P. ramorum infection has been confirmed in Japanese larch trees (Larix kaempferi) in a mix of Forestry Commission England and privately owned forests in South West England, and in woodland managed by Forestry Commission Wales in South Wales.

The package has been put in place by the Forestry Commission from funding made available from Defra's £25 million, five-year Phytophthora ramorum management programme. The first £100,000 has been earmarked to give private-sector owners access to professional advice about how to have infected trees felled and marketed in ways that comply with biosecurity and other regulations. Owners will be able to apply for up to £1,000 of aid from this part of the fund.

Forestry Commission plant helath service head Roddie Burgess said: "Woodland owners need to make decisions about how they deal with these outbreaks to comply with requirements imposed on them under the disease management programme, but there are a number of options open to them. These funds will provide  support from experienced professionals who can help owners decide on the best options tailored to their situation."

The £500,000 balance will be used to prevent further spread of the disease. It will help owners with the costs of clearing immature Japanese larch from affected sites, both privately owned and those managed by the Forestry Commission.

Burgess added: "Larch can produce many more P. ramorum spores than other species so far infected, and they can spread easily over considerable distances.

"We are working hard to define the limits of infected larch by combining aerial surveys with follow-up ground checks of suspected sites. Once we are clear on this extent the limited funding might have to be targeted at areas most likely to cause further spread to the wider country. 

"We will use the funds to remove infected trees from as many of these areas as possible before the end of March 2011.

"Full details of how the funding package will be administered will be finalised over the next few weeks, but allocation of the assistance will be decided by a board comprising representatives of the Forestry Commission, Fera and the Confederation of Forest Industries."

Contact 01626 890666 or email: fc.sweng.cons@forestry.gsi.gov.uk. Woodland owners in Wales should contact Forestry Commission Wales' Grants & Regulations Office on tel: 0300 068 0300 or email: bww.ts@forestry.gsi.gov.uk.


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