Forestry Commission Scotland has been met with ‘shock and anger’ over the appearance of the Galloway Forest Park amid efforts to tackle larch disease.
With vast swathes of –albeit infected –greenery removed, leaving a sea of brown stumps and dead pine needles, visitors to Galloway’s famous national park over Easter were horrified at the changed landscape.
But the Commission says it has had to tackle the devastating Phytophthora ramorum (larch disease) problem aggressively, adding that the scenes have “shocked and angered many people.”
Keith Muir, the Commission’s recreation and tourism manager for the area, said thisreaction is understandable because people are only now seeing with their own eyes the true impact that the disease has had on the area.
Mr Muir said: “So many trees have been infected and killed by the disease. They are not attractive to look at but more importantly, if the dead trees are not felled and removed then the disease that they carry has a chance to move on to other areas and healthy trees.
“We’ve been told by the public that felling all of the trees is a bit drastic and is pretty close to environmental vandalism – I can appreciate people thinking this, but our forests aren’t just for recreation - they are working, timber producing forests. We really had no choice but to tackle this head on.
“Leaving these trees in place can also create a public safety issue as branches and tree tops, over the course of a year or so, may weaken and break off.
“We foresters are as devastated as anyone about what we have had to do – many of us have put in years of work to Galloway Forest Park and to see all of our care and effort wiped out by this disease is heart breaking.”
Replanting work will be carried out but it could be 10 years before young trees are established at the sites.
The Commission is looking at retaining some of the views that have been opened up and says the park is open for business but asks the public observes safety signage and helps avoid spreading the disease.
Mr Muir added: “With so much felling,it will take us some time to get all the trails reopened and back up to the a high standard.We have a small team and limited resources so I’d ask people to bear with us.”