LOCAL residents and visitors are being reminded by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) to be extra vigilant when visiting Corlarach woods now that felling to remove diseased trees is underway.

The site is one of several sites across Scotland that was recently confirmed as having Phytophthora ramorum.

There are a number of active operations ongoing at present the majority of which are closer to Dunoon than further into forest block.

Fraser McDonald, for the FLS team in Cowal, said: “This is a horrible disease that’s really impacted larch in Scotland’s forests for several years. It can’t be eradicated – the only way we have to slow its rate of spread is to fell the infected trees and those surrounding them.

“We have a legal obligation to fell the infected trees and we’re doing this as a matter of urgency. At Corlarach currently we’re carrying out chainsaw felling, harvester and flail/mulching and there is also civil engineering work underway. Added to that, there is a substantial increase in the number of timber lorries using the forest roads to remove the timber.

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“It is imperative that – for their own safety – local residents and visitors to the woods are extra vigilant at all times, observe and follow all safety signage and diversions and to heed the advice of any of our team on safety and access issues.”

Corlarach is one of 12 sites in the Cowal & Trossachs area where the presence of the disease was recently confirmed and where control orders requiring the diseased trees’ removal (Statutory Plant Health Notices) have been served. These include Pucks Glen, Kilmun Hill, Strathlachlan, Gairletter, and Whistlefield.

Fraser added: “Anything that can be done to help slow the spread of the disease helps Scotland’s forests, landscapes and biodiversity; helps the forestry and timber processing sector; and also buys the time to research and develop other actions that we can take to ensure the long-term health of our woodlands.

 “It’s going to be a long haul that will see substantial changes to some well-loved landscapes over the next four years – and it’s going to substantially tax our resources and challenge our planning and delivery teams.

“Overall, we’ll be removing about 415 hectares of forest (15 per cent of the total area) – hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of timber a year (around 800,000 trees) – on a site that’s valued at £37+ million.

“But at least some of the timber we’re removing can still be used by premises that are licensed to process it. So it’s not a total loss, and any monies that we can recoup from that felled timber will go straight back in to the ongoing management of the forests and land that we look after.”

FLS is asking the public to help to control the rate of spread by following the FLS ‘Keep it Clean’ advice to brush off boots, bike wheels, tent pegs and even your dog’s paws to remove the mud and forest debris that can transfer the disease-causing spores from one site to another.

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