PREMIER Woodlands’ man-
aging director John Heth-erington is calling on Forest Service to have all 2021 Forestry Expansion Scheme (FES) applications pro-cessed and letters of offer out with applicants before the end of October.
He explained: “The application period for this year’s scheme ended on Tuesday, 31st August. It
should take no more than two months for Forest Service to have the required adjudication panel established and the follow-on site visits undertaken in an orderly fashion.
“I fully accept that the delays incurred in last year’s administration processes were very much Covid related. But these should not be an issue in 2021.”
The Premier Woodlands’ repre-sentative flagged-up two important reasons why Forest Service should address the FES administration process in a speedy manner.
He said: “The first relates to the very obvious benefit of providing applicants with a full planting season to get on with the establishment work, where the creation of a new woodland is concerned.
“The second, and equally im-portant, matter centres on the availability of suitable native seed origin tree stocks.
“The outworking of Brexit is having a very direct and negative impact on the availability of young trees from nurseries in other parts of the UK.
“We have traditionally sourced trees of the correct quality from suppliers in England and Scotland.
“European nurseries cannot supply young trees of the seed origin that we want. As a consequence, it is critically important for the future of the entire forestry sector in Northern Ireland that ways are found of making the importation of young trees from GB much more feasible. And the clock is ticking in this regard.”
In relation to the woodland design criteria accepted by Forest Service under FES, John stressed the need for deer fencing to be officially recognised as a frequent requirement in this context.
He explained: “The deer pop-
ulation of all species are sign-ificantly increasing in number and range across all areas of Northern Ireland.
“These animals can create significant damage if they gain access to a young establishing woodland.
“And deer fencing is the most secure way of keeping them out. Up to this point Forest Service has not taken the view that deer fencing represents adequate value for money where public finances are concerned.
“However, given the continuing increase in deer numbers, I am asking for this issue to be reviewed.
“Moreover, given the fact that FES has been consistently under subscribed throughout the entire implementation period of the pro-gramme, there is funding available to facilitate deer fencing when its use can be fully justified.”
Turning to the Small Woodland Scheme (SWS), John said that new applications close at the end of this month.
He continued: “Again, the issue of forestry companies being allowed to source young trees in sufficient numbers must be actively addressed by government if the new scheme is to have any prospect of success.”
According to the Premier Wood-lands forester, 2021 has been the year when the scale of Ash Dieback has become very apparent in Northern Ireland.
“The disease is now endemic across the entire island,” he stressed.
“As a consequence, countless numbers of ash trees will start to die-off over the next decade.
“Many mature trees are to be found on road verges across Northern Ireland. As the disease continues to take hold, the risk of these trees losing limbs suddenly or falling over without warning on to passing cars will increase.
“The management of trees loc-ated on verges is the responsibility of Road Service. And I would ask those involved in that agency to carry out a continuous monitoring of ash trees that are under their supervision.”
John Hetherington concluded: “The wood in dying or dead ash trees becomes very brittle. Cutting these trees down is a very dangerous operation. And I would urge farmers to be very mindful of this fact if they plan to fell diseased ash trees during the period ahead.”