Welsh Government’s call-to-arms to plant more trees needs to include better tree health support

In Wales we should do more to support felling and restocking of diseased trees - learning from England's Tree Health pilot launched this week
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“Wales needs a Tree Health initiative similar to the pilot launched in England this week,” says CLA Senior Land Use Policy Adviser, Graham Clark. “Landowners and managers in Wales have been lobbying for clarity and support about felling and replacing diseased trees as diseases like ash dieback have spread rapidly. Disease knows no boundaries, as the Welsh Government is committed dramatically to increase woodland and forestry here, it is equally important to sustain the health of the stock we already have.”

England’s Tree Health Pilot is designed to support action against pests and diseases affecting various species including ash, sweet chestnut and spruce. “Here in Wales the Government’s support for woodland restoration is limited to larch affected by phytophthora, at a time when ash die-back has also been advancing rapidly. Both diseases are now present throughout Wales and threaten our tree stock. We urgently need to broaden the scope of tree health support to help landowners tackle ash dieback and various other pests and diseases affecting our trees and woodlands.

England’s three-year Tree Health Pilot will be delivered by the Forestry Commission covering the English side of most of the Welsh border: the West Midlands, North West as well as London and the South East of England. England’s Forestry Commission will support felling, restocking and will provide maintenance payments for restocked sites. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is responsible for these matters in Wales.

“This summer the Welsh Government made a ‘call-to-arms’ to plant more trees. The Deputy Climate Change Minister, Lee Waters, acknowledged that Wales needs to see 43,000 hectares of woodland planted by 2030, and 180,000 hectares by 2050. This, the Deputy Minister explained, is equivalent to planting at least 5,000 hectares per year. Last year just 290 hectares of woodland was planted in Wales, and annual woodland creation has not exceeded 2,000 hectares since 1975. Graham says, “To date, Welsh Government grants have been targeted towards new forestry. Clearly an initiative to protect existing trees and woodland – with all the conservation and public benefits – can be an important element in the Welsh Government forestry and woodland strategy.”