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Forest industries working together to recover from Storm Arwen

Written by on 14/01/2022

The forestry sector in the south of Scotland and north of England are joining forces to tackle the aftermath of Storm Arwen.

The vicious storm winds brought down vast swathes in trees across the Scottish Borders, Galloway and into northern England.

Work is currently being undertaken to get an accurate picture of the volume of timber that might have been blown down.

Scottish Forestry, the Forestry Commission and Confor have brought together representatives from the private forestry sector and local councils so that the industry can work on a strategic approach to manage the fallen trees and  minimise the loss of timber.

After the group met (14th Jan), Doug Howieson, Scottish Forestry’s Head of Operational Delivery said:

“Storm Arwen was a reminder of just how ferocious Mother Nature can be. Many forests and woodlands in the south of Scotland suffered significant windblow.

“There is a major challenge now to co-ordinate the recovery of this huge amount of fallen wood so that it can get to market. It may take over a year to manage the current quantities of timber that is currently lying on the forest floor.

“Our role is to get the forestry owners together so that they can take a strategic and collective view and co-ordinate activity  to manage the aftermath of Storm Arwen in a safe and timely manner.”

Although around 1500ha of forests have been affected in south Scotland, and 1400ha in the north of England, these areas will be replanted.

It may take a generation for the forests and woodlands to be restored as before. Foresters are keen to turn this into a positive opportunity to plant new species, making these forests more resilient for the future.

The forest industries are using a new Storm Arwen Mapping tool, developed by Forest Research and Scottish Forestry, to help them locate and plan how to remove the windblow.

The group agreed that in order to co-ordinate the clear-up, more information on the tree species, size and location, as well as the condition of the fallen trees, is needed from the Forest Research agency.

The group also stressed the additional Health and Safety risks of working with windthrow trees, and highlighted the need for clear messaging on the need to engage professionally competent contractors.

With an expected increase in timber haulage needed to cope with the extra timber now available, the forestry industry will work collectively to minimise the impacts of timber lorries on rural communities.

Andy Leitch, Deputy Chief Executive of forestry and wood trade body Confor, said: “The industry continues to work very closely with the public forestry bodies to ensure the unexpected timber glut created by Storm Arwen is brought out of the forest and to the market in an efficient and appropriate way. This means collaborating effectively across the whole forestry sector to ensure skilled people and machines are deployed in the right place at the right time.”

Co-ordination with timber processors is also a key priority as they will need to manage their capacity to take on more wood over the coming year. Woodland owners are being advised not to rush to harvest areas until they have a market agreed for their timber.

Crispin Thorn, Area Director – Yorkshire and North East, Forestry Commission, added:

“We continue to assess the impact of Storm Arwen, in particular in the North of England. Forestry England has been working hard to restore access to the nation’s forests, continuing its efforts to remove fallen trees, while the wider Forestry Commission is working with stakeholders to gather intelligence on the impact to private woodlands.

“As part of our response, the Forestry Commission and Forestry England will continue to work closely with Scottish Forestry, Confor, wider partners and the sector to support the ongoing recovery from the storm.”