He explained, “The application period for this year’s program ended on Tuesday, August 31. It should not take more than two months for the Forest Service for the required arbitration committee to be established and for follow-up on-site visits to be carried out in an orderly manner.
“I fully accept that the delays in administrative processes over the past year were largely related to Covid. But that shouldn’t be a problem in 2021. “
The Premier Woodlands representative pointed out two important reasons why the Forest Service should approach the FES administration process in a timely manner.
He said, “The first is the very obvious benefit of providing applicants with a full planting season to continue establishment work, when it comes to creating a new woodlot.
“The second, equally important issue is the availability of stocks of suitable native trees.
“The result of Brexit has a very direct and negative impact on the availability of saplings from nurseries in other parts of the UK. We have traditionally purchased good quality trees from suppliers in England and Scotland.
“European nurseries cannot provide young trees from the origin of the seeds we want. As a result, it is extremely important for the future of the entire forestry sector in Northern Ireland to find ways to make the importation of saplings from Great Britain much more feasible. And time is running out in this regard.
Regarding the forest design criteria accepted by the Forest Service under the FES, John highlighted the need to formally recognize deer fencing as a frequent requirement in this context.
He explained: “The deer population of all species is increasing dramatically in number and range in all parts of Northern Ireland.
“These animals can cause significant damage if they gain access to a young woodlot that is establishing itself.
“And deer fences are the safest way to keep them out. So far, the Forest Service has not rated deer fencing as good value for money when it comes to public finances.
“However, given the continued increase in the number of deer, I ask that this issue be reconsidered.
“In addition, since FES has been consistently underwritten throughout the program’s implementation period, funds are available to facilitate deer fencing when its use can be fully justified.”
Regarding the Small Woodland Scheme (SWS), John has confirmed that new applications close at the end of this month – in September.
He continued, “Once again, the issue of logging companies allowed to source sufficient saplings must be actively resolved by the government, if the new program is to have any chance of success.”
According to the Forester of the First Woodlands, 2021 was the year the extent of ash dieback became very apparent in Northern Ireland.
“The disease is now endemic throughout the island,” he said. “As a result, countless numbers of ash trees will begin to die over the next decade.
“Many mature trees are found on the sides of the roads across Northern Ireland. As the disease continues to take hold, the risk of these trees suddenly losing branches or falling onto passing cars without warning will increase.
“The management of trees located on the shoulders is the responsibility of the roads. And I would ask the people involved in this agency to carry out continuous monitoring of the ash trees that are under their supervision.
John Hetherington concluded: “The wood of dying or dead ash trees becomes very brittle. Cutting down these trees is a very dangerous operation. And I urge farmers to be very careful with this fact if they plan to cut down diseased ash trees in the coming period.
For more information, contact Premier Woodlands at (028) 7963 4236.