LlyG member blog: Moving forward – recovery programme for Welsh Woodlands impacted by Phytophthora Ramorum

Posted on October 5, 2014 by

This months’ guest blog comes from Gareth Ellis, Community Projects Manager for the The Green Valleys CiC, Brecon Beacons, who work with community woodlands as part of a wide programme to support sustainable development.

With Phytophthora ramorum (P ramorum) the most significant tree disease to affect woodlands in Wales in recent years, Gareth reports from a key strategic meeting on the 22nd September, hosted by Welsh Government, looking at the recovery programme for Welsh Woodlands impacted by the disease, and how this links in with community woodland work.

Background – management to recovery

P ramorum has caused the widespread death of larch, a significant timber producing tree species, and is a potentially serious threat to other trees and plants in Wales. In the last year the Wales Tree Health Steering Group developed the P ramorum Disease Management Strategy which is being implemented by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to manage its impact in Wales.

Now this is in place, planning then commenced in June 2014 to consider the long term recovery of the woodlands, affected by this disease, both public and private, by clearly assessing its impact and deciding what further action and resources may be needed. From this a recovery programme would be created to provide a structure to enable WG, NRW and representatives of the private woodland and wood processing sector in Wales to work together to deliver the vision and outcome.

The meeting on the 22nd September aimed to look at this draft recovery programme, and how it would be delivered. The meeting was well attended, with representatives from Welsh Government (WG), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), and Welsh Forestry Sector.

Potential opportunity

It was clear that WG and NRW are seeing P Ramorum work as an opportunity to look at other things, in particular improve the age structure and increase the species diversity of Welsh woodlands to meet the vision expressed in the Welsh Government’s woodland strategy Woodlands for Wales, but always linked back to the disease control work. It is hoped that the successful delivery of proposed programme will lead to a better, more diverse and resilient Welsh woodland estate providing actions are clear and resources provided.

Programme delivery – linking in with community woodland work

The programme includes a collection of work strands, the most relevant to community woodlands being the ‘community/access/local business/tourism’ work stream, which I sat on.

Key points from this stream included recognition that –

  • There were gaps in data across many locations, including the amount of larch on community managed sites.
  • The effects of plant health orders could be disproportionally high to a social enterprise or community group – e.g. even a small area felled outside of a harvesting plan could result in a significant impact on a social enterprise business plan.
  • The need to gather basic information on the woodlands under either community or private ownership – with the potential role for Llais y Goedwig as a network of community woodland groups, or community members to help with local engagement and information
  • Communication channels with the forestry industry might bypass community woodlands and small private owners. WG and NRW are keen to ensure that these sectors are properly involved and can receive the information they need to properly understand and support the Disease Management Strategy
  • WG and NRW need to engage communities around Welsh Governments’ Forest Estate as they recognise the importance of effective communication for those directly impacted by the disease control felling.
  • The need to better understand the nature of the impacts on local communities and businesses so that they are better able to eliminate or limit those impacts.

Finally it was very encouraging to see the positive and inclusive approach the staff from both WG and NRW took to the meeting. There was a real sense of purpose to use the necessary reaction to P Ramorum as a positive opportunity to improve how our public forests are managed.

Follow developments

LlyG intends to continue representing the network with the presence of a member at each meeting regarding this, reporting back where appropriate.

The final recovery programme for Welsh Woodlands impacted by Phytophthora Ramorum will be available on the WG website once completed.

 

 

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