Revised Reconstitution Scheme for ash dieback to be introduced

The Reconstitution Scheme for ash plantations affected by ash dieback will be reintroduced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, AgriLand has learned.

The revised scheme will be known as the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS), and is set to open for applications from June 22.

The scheme will provide plantation owners with an opportunity to recover the “maximum economic value possible” from their affected plantations.

Plantations can be managed through thinning under the existing Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS), or replanted entirely under a reconstitution option.

RUS introduces the underplanting technique to handling ash dieback. This approach allows owners to retain just under 40% of their plantation, while replanting the spaces created.

Applications will be screened for assessment, and a replanting obligation will exist, i.e, where replanting does not take place within four years of site clearance, the department may recoup payments made under this scheme, as well as the Afforestation Scheme; the Forestry Environmental Protection Scheme (FEPS); the Native Woodland Scheme (NWS); and the WIS.

Eligible sites under this scheme will have access to Section 2 of the Deer Tree Shelters and Deer/Hare Fencing Scheme. RUS also provides for a contribution of €2.50/m – up to a maximum of 140m/ha (€350/ha) – for fencing repairs.

In relation to fencing costs, funding is available up to an annual budget ceiling set each year by the department. Therefore, it may be the case that some applications for fencing costs may not be approved.

‘Form 1’ applications received prior to suspension of the previous Reconstitution Scheme (April 2018) can have their applications processed under the conditions of the earlier scheme. Under this scenario the details given in the original Form 1 – that is, the category the plantation fell under at the time the application was submitted – will apply.

Applicants under this scenario can also choose to apply under RUS. Applying under this scheme will mean a smaller clearance grant (€1,000 instead of €1,500) but they will have access to support for underplanting.

Applicants submitting under RUS must apply the revised approach and options without recourse to the original Form 1. This means that the category under which the plantation will now fall will be based on the current height, age and diameter at breast height (DBH).

In cases where applicants decide to apply different options to different plots, separate applications must be submitted. Furthermore, landowners in Category 2 (explained below) who choose to adopt WIS can subsequently choose either underplanting or reconstitution once they are classified as category 2a or 2b.

Landowners who choose to adopt underplanting cannot subsequently adopt the reconstitution option.

An exemption for felling licences for reconstitution and underplanting will apply for ash under this scheme.

Furthermore, the option of Continuous Cover Forestry under WIS is also permitted – although site conditions that suit this type of approach may be limited.

In another new development, forest owners affected by ash dieback will no longer be required to report these occurrences to the department and notification letters will no longer be issued.

Planters will have to upkeep the plantation to standards set by the department, including the need to “support and maintain vigorous growth” in the plantation and to take steps to prevent the entry or establishment of forest pests and diseases.

Failure to do this will result in premium payments under an existing afforestation scheme being ended.

Categories

As with the previous scheme, there are three categories: Category 1; 2; and 3, based on the height and age of the plantation. Different options are presented within these three categories of plantation.

These categories are as follows:

  • Category 1 – under 7m tall;
  • Category 2 – between 7m tall and 17m tall;
  • Category 3 – Over 17m tall or greater than 18cm DBH or over 25 years old.

For Category 1, both reconstitution and underplanting are available, while for Category 3, only management under WIS is available.

For Category 2, it’s a bit more complicated, being divided into three sub-categories.

These are as follows:

  • Category 2a – less than 4% stem infection;
  • Category 2b – 4% to 10% stem infection;
  • Category 2c – over 10% stem infection.

The WIS option is available for all three sub-categories. Underplanting is available for ‘b’ and ‘c’, while reconstitution is available for ‘c’ only.

Reconstitution and underplanting applications for Category 2b and 2c sites must be accompanied by an appropriate damage assessment.

Stay tuned to AgriLand for more details on this scheme.