Tree disease devastates forest park’s larch

A devastating tree disease is having a major impact on larch trees across the Galloway Forest Park.

Phytophthora ramorum, which kills larch, was first found in Dumfries and Galloway in 2010 but is now widespread in the region.

The only way to tackle the disease is to fell infected trees and other nearby larch in a bid to stop it spreading. The scale of the disease has meant that the Forestry Commission’s felling programme has dramatically increased and most of Galloway’s larch trees will be removed over the next two to three years.

Keith Muir, head of tourism for the FC’s team in Galloway, said: “The impact on Galloway forests will be huge. Within the Galloway Forest Park, much of the larch can be found in highly visible areas, often close to our visitor centres, walking and mountain biking routes.

“There is a lot of forestry activity going on at the moment and this will continue for the foreseeable future so this is really a call to make all visitors and locals aware of the need for additional caution.

“The disease is having a major impact on our forests and it makes sense to fell and remove as much of the larch from heavily visited areas before things start to get busier with the 2014 tourist season. This will mean there will be a lot of heavy machinery on site and more timber lorries than usual working in the forests and some of the minor roads.

“Unfortunately, this means there will be ongoing disruptions for visitors and trail users and there will be times when certain routes and car parks will be closed. There will be diversions, which might change from day to day, so people need to take extra care, especially local residents who visit the forest on a daily basis.

“We apologise for any inconvenience and will do what we can to limit the disruption but we hope people will understand the need to meet this challenge head on. The forest park remains open and visitors are extremely welcome but we would ask that everyone make themselves aware of and observe the biosecurity guidance notices on site and online.”

When safety considerations allow, trails will be opened up but for more information please contact the local office on 01671 402420 or at Galloway@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

Unintended spreading of ramorum by people and vehicles can occur but it is the movement of the disease’s spores over miles in mists, air currents and watercourses has been the most important factor in the south-west Scotland outbreak.

Visitors can help reduce the spread of the disease by taking simple steps to remove mud from their boots, clothing, bicycle or buggy tyres, and pets’ feet.

More information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorumscotland