Larch felling halted in Wales to prevent spread of serious tree disease outbreak

The Forestry Commission Wales has issued a temporary ban on the felling of larch to prevent the spread of Phytophthora ramorum.

The ban will operate until May 2011 to allow enough time to identify any infected larch because it is easier to spot the disease in spring when new needles are on the trees.

Grants and regulations operations manager Rachel Chamberlain said: "Having considered several options, we decided to adopt a short-term approach to dealing with applications for a felling licence, during the winter months.

"This approach will enable us to establish whether the standing timber is infected with Phytophtora ramorum and avoid the spread of this serious tree disease."

She continued: "If infected trees were to be felled unknowingly, infected material could circumvent biosecurity measures and undermine the controls that have been put in place to try to limit the impact of this outbreak. We are hoping to return to normal administration of felling licences involving larch next spring — the exact date will depend on the timing of needle flush but is expected to be no later than the beginning of June."

Confederation of Forest Industries (ConFor) national manager for Wales Kath McNulty said: "These measures are hard for woodland owners and I hope they won’t cause too much distress.

"ConFor supports biosecurity measures to reduce the spread of this disease and is lobbying the Government to take further steps to support the forest industry."

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