IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Michael Fleming said he has serious concerns about the lack of progress by the Forest Service to contain the spread of the Ash Dieback disease. “It is unacceptable that infected plantations and associated plantations that were confirmed earlier in the year have yet to be removed. The lack of progress directly contravenes the Forest Service control strategy to promptly contain and manage infected plantations to halt the spread of the disease to healthy ash trees”.
Michael Fleming called on Minister of State Tom Hayes to intervene and address forest owners’ concerns in relation to the management of Ash Dieback eradication programme. He said it was very unfair that forest owners were financially liable for the inaction of the Forest Service to firstly control the importation of infected plants and now for the ineffective management of the eradication programme.
He said, “Forest owners are not responsible for introduction of the disease, which can be traced to the importation of infected ash plants and inadequate monitoring by the Forest Service. IFA’s position is that forest owners, with plantations affected by the disease, must be given the option not to replant without any ramifications. If they choose to replant under the Reconstitution of Woodlands (Chalara fraxinea) Scheme then their forest premiums be reinstated for 20 years”.
“It is now almost a year since Ash Dieback disease was first confirmed in Ireland and six months since the Reconstitution of Woodlands (Chalara fraxinea) Scheme was introduced”, said Mr. Fleming. “The six month delay introducing the Reconstitution Scheme and the fact that infected plantations are still only being cleared is exposing forest owners unnecessarily to significant economic loss.”
Farmers are used to dealing with disease but are dismayed at the progress by the Forest Service to clear infected plantations, particularly given the numbers involved. He said that when the scheme was introduced in March, IFA stated that all infected plantations must be cleared by end of May while the disease is dormant. The fact that plantations are still only being cleared in late September shows the eradication programme is not being managed effectively and is endangering the entire ash estate.
Fungal diseases such as Ash Dieback cannot be cured but can be stopped if the spread of the disease is proactively controlled. The latest figures from the Forest Service show there are 39 confirmed findings of the disease in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Longford, Meath, Tipperary and Waterford.