What is a SPHN?
SPHN stands for Statutory Plant Health Notice. It is a notice that is served by Scottish Forestry on woodland owners when they have found evidence of a serious plant disease that requires urgent management action to treat and prevent further spread.
What did the SPHN notice mean for our Community Woodland?
It advised CCDT that a disease (Phytophera Ramorum) had been found on larch and rhododendron on Gillies Hill and instructed CCDT to fell all larch trees within a designated area (250m radius from the infected area) by 28 Feb 2022. The notice can be seen in full here. It was first issued on 1st November 2021.
How was the SPHN work carried out?
After a competitive tender process, the SPHN work was contracted out by CCDT as a standing sale to RTS Woodland Management Ltd. The felling commenced in January 2022 with frequent liaison taking place during the works with RTS and with the Scottish Forestry Tree Health Officer. Felling of drey trees were completed after breeding season in August 2022 which was approved by our Tree Health Officer.
How did the contract go?
The work took longer to complete than expected due to very wet weather during February 2022 where work had to be paused. The Scottish Forestry Tree Health Officer was kept informed of progress at all times and subsequently made aware when it was recognised that we would not meet the deadline of end of February. The wet weather also contributed to challenges on site in maintaining access for the community and managing runoff from the felled area. RTS admitted they were challenged during the project by lack of resource to communicate effectively and to oversee and manage the project as well as with the weather.
During each week of the operations CCDT posted updates on progress and changes in access on social media, our website and issued emails directly out to our members.
Felling continued throughout March and the harvester left site early in April. The forwarding and haulage extraction then continued through April and May.
No concerns were raised by Forestry Scotland in relation to the SPHN operations.
What happened to the felled trees?
The majority of felled larch trees were sold to sawmills as timber logs and some sold as biomass product. In total, £60,000 was raised for the CCDT and we are now looking at how best to use these funds to restore the SPHN area and support projects that benefit the community woodland for all who use it. Some trees have been left where felled if extraction was thought to cause more ground damage than the value was worth. However there is still potential for developing and using these tree trunks in situ for example as chainsaw carvings or seats/benches.
Why are the woods such a mess?
There was more disturbance to some areas of the SPHN than expected due to adverse weather conditions. We have limited capacity within our team of volunteers however we did organise some volunteer sessions to clear brash away from access routes in the weeks following machinery leaving the woodland. We will need more volunteer events to deliver the management aims for the SPHN when they are agreed this summer.
What are the plans for the SPHN area now?
We have a team of volunteers looking at options for replanting and managing the SPHN affected area to deliver the aims of our agreed Woodland Management Plan. Professional forestry advice will be needed and then we intend to put options for the SPHN area to community consultation this spring/summer in order to potentially allow some work to begin this winter. Please follow this link to read the latest update https://ccdt.org.uk/planning-update-restocking-the-sphn-area/