‘It is time for a new approach in Ireland to ash dieback’

A review of the national response to the ash dieback disease has today been announced by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle.

This will include a review of the Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme and the All-Ireland Chalara Control Strategy (2013).

The review comes after high-level stakeholder meeting in Dublin, which received updated scientific advice on the prevalence of the disease in ash plantations in Ireland.

Following the meeting, Minister Doyle said: “It is time for a new approach in Ireland to ash dieback. It is clear from the latest scientific advice that eradication here is no longer considered feasible.

Given this updated advice, our policy response must also change. I am announcing today a detailed public consultation period on the policy response to the disease.

“The Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme will be reviewed to ensure its continued relevance and value for money, and to ensure that the forest owner is provided with a broader range of silvicultural and management options,” he said.

Premium fears

The stakeholder meeting received updates from department and Teagasc forestry experts on the latest international scientific advice and experience of dealing with the disease, as well as updates from the Forest Service of Northern Ireland on its policy response to the disease.

In order to help inform the public consultation, the presentations have been published on the department’s website.

Continuing, Minister Doyle said: “For farmers, this new policy response will mean more options if their forests are affected with the disease and we will continue to inform and support them if they have ash dieback.

I believe many farmers with ash dieback on larger trees would like the opportunity to grow the forest on and produce a crop of ash timber, without the fear of their annual premiums being stopped.

“As a first step, I am announcing – with immediate effect – that we will no longer be ending premium payments to farmers who wish to continue with cultivating their ash plantation where the prevalence of the disease is low.”

Disease confirmed in over 560 plantations

Since the first finding of the ash dieback disease in 2012, there are now over 560 plantations that have been confirmed with the disease – in addition to other findings in nurseries, roadsides, gardens, farms and hedgerows.

The department currently runs two schemes that assist landowners with ash dieback disease; the Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme and the Woodland Improvement Scheme – Tending and Thinning.

The minister announced that any existing applications already received for the reconstitution scheme by the department will be honoured in full and that any new applications received since last Friday (April 13) will be assessed under the new scheme.

Since 2013, the department has partnered with the Forestry Commission in the UK in an effort to breed for resistance. The department is also funding Teagasc to carry out additional work in this area.

Concluding, Minister Doyle said: “This review recognises that living with the disease and managing forests accordingly will become a reality for most forest owners, particularly those with older ash stands.

“I am encouraging anybody with an interest in this subject to make known their views as part of our consultation and full details can be found on my department’s website on how to make a submission by the closing date of May 18.”