Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have provided the following information on the felling of trees affected by Ash Dieback.
Ash is a widespread species grown for both its timber and biodiversity value and which makes a substantial contribution to many landscapes. The spread of Ash Dieback has increased rapidly during the summers of 2017 and 2018 especially because conditions have been favourable for the movement of spores. The level of impact is variable across Wales but the disease is now present across the whole of Wales and will have a major impact on the landscape. The current research indicates that about 5% of ash is likely to be tolerant to Ash Dieback. Ash Dieback can kill saplings and smaller trees but rarely kills larger trees, however, repeated infections kill parts of the tree crowns and weakens those larger trees to such an extent that they become infected by other diseases already present on the site e.g. honey fungus which will eventually kill them.
Welsh Ministers are the competent authority for plant health in Wales and as part of that role have established the Ash Dieback Core Strategic Group which includes representation from a wide group of stakeholders including WLGA, Network Rail, Western Power, Trunk Road agency, CLA, FUW, NFU Cymru, Wildlife Trusts, CONFOR, NRW (amongst others). This is as a response to the complexity of this land management issue. An early task for the group is to review the current Welsh Government Ash Dieback Action Plan. The Group will also ensure that the developing research and management options are communicated across the range of sectors.
The stakeholder representatives are being clearly tasked to feed information into the group and back from the group to their specific sectors. Some of the subject areas already raised are:
- owners liability,
- who is responsible for what adjacent to highways
- requirements for felling licences
- survey and data maintenance techniques for ash dieback
- Ensuring rare species relying on Ash are maintained as far as possible
The most important issues at the moment relate to understanding the scale of the impact of Ash Dieback, operational and business planning to manage the disease and operations in the highest risk areas based on the tree location and the level of the disease.
With particular regards to the current position on felling trees with Ash Dieback, this is covered by Section 4 e of the NRW Felling Booklet. This states:
“Chalara dieback of ash, which is caused by the pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, is a serious disease of ash which frequently kills young ash trees and can seriously weaken older ash trees over a number of years. Advance stages of infection in the latter will likely lead to a decrease in the amount of foliage within the crown and an increase in a type of regrowth known as epicormics. The timber will become stained and the risk increases of attack by secondary pathogens such as honey fungus (species of the Armillaria genus), which can kill the trees.
If your trees become infected by H. fraxineus then you will need to consider public safety and monitor your trees, particularly in areas with high levels of public access. NRW issues felling licences to fell growing trees, and there is no exemption under the Forestry Act 1967 to fell diseased trees.
Exemptions from the need for a felling licence include felling necessary for the prevention of danger or the prevention or abatement of a nuisance. This exemption will only apply if there is a real rather than a perceived danger, or a nuisance as recognised in law. You may be required to provide evidence that the trees presented a danger, for example through an accredited arboriculturalist’s report or photographic evidence. A diseased tree is not necessarily dangerous. NRW strongly recommend that you contact them if you are considering felling a tree or trees you consider to be dangerous. NRW may be able to give advice that would minimise the danger without any felling. You may be prosecuted for illegal felling if it is show that the tree or trees did not present a real or immediate danger or they did not present a nuisance as recognised in law.
For further information please contact Natural Resources Wales on 0300 0653000, ZW5xdWlyaWVzQG5hdHVyYWxyZXNvdXJjZXN3YWxlcy5nb3YudWs=