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Forestry and Land Scotland says that the stresses of dealing with tree diseases is bring out the very best of all its foresters.

Tree diseases can have a devastating effect on a forest, infecting and often killing hundreds or thousands of susceptible species.

There is no known cure or treatment for these diseases and the only available means of slowing the disease’ progress to new, unaffected forests, is to fell diseased trees – and others in a surrounding buffer zone.

However, what seems like a ‘straightforward’ task often is anything but. Especially when, as with FLS’ Central Region team, you are dealing with dozens (currently 73) of Statutory Plant Health Notices (SPHNs). Issued by forestry regulator, Scottish Forestry, these require land managers to fell infected trees within a set time-frame.

Carol McGinnes, FLS Central Region Manager, said;

“There’s one particular disease – Phytophthora ramorum – that has over the last ten years or so, spread up the west of Scotland. Slowing the further spread of this disease is incredibly hard work because it’s often not as simple as it sounds.

“Keeping the public and local communities informed and arranging forest closures or diversions is a top, safety priority. But the big headache is the complete re-jigging of our planned works programmes.

“We have to manage our resources in such a way as try to deliver as much of our usual harvesting output as we can while also dealing with the diseased trees. It can be extremely challenging ensuring that we have the right resources in the right place at the right time in order to get this done.

“This is all further complicated by the particular circumstances that we have to contend with at each forest where diseased trees have to be felled.”

Some of the issues that can throw SPHN felling work off course include nesting raptors, water mains, power lines (that need to be shut down), steep terrain that requires specialist contractors and equipment (often in short supply), proximity to popular recreational sites, railway lines, the presence of protected species, and geotechnical issues (trees on unstable slopes above roadways).

Many of these require negotiation with other agencies to arrive at a solution as to how best to carry out the work with the minimal amount of inconvenience.

Carol added;

“Arranging a power line shutdown is obviously a difficult one, as is scheduling felling work next to a railway line but even more complex are the steep slopes where we have to engage contractors to install rock netting and catch fencing and also arrange for traffic management.

“There is often a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to get these arrangements in place so that we can meet the statutory requirements of the SPHNs, but knowing that by getting this right we are helping to protect other forests, motivates us to continue to rise to the challenge.“


Notes to editors

  1. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.

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  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or