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The wildlife paradise of Mull may be damaged forever if a company continues its chemical treatment of trees prior to planting them near to waterways and private homes.
That was the warning from a small group protesting against the use of chemicals to treat forestry on the island.
Tilhill, the UKs leading specialists in woodland and forest management, manages a number of forests on the island and claimed the chemical treatment of saplings was necessary because the demand in other countries for paper products was so high that trees needed to be extracted and regrown as quickly as possible.
The protest group has now been set up to campaign against the use of Gazelle – a neonicotinoid, which is a chemical approved by the UK government – for use on saplings being planted within the forest.
Mull residents John Laura, from Lungamull, and Mike Shilsden, from Dervaig, were concerned with comments made at Mull Community Council last week.
Neil Stoddart, a chartered forester with Tilhill, told Mull Community Council that the money from paper products was vital to the Scottish economy and the demand for wood was on the rise.
He said: ‘When people in China and Africa find out about toilet rolls, the demand for paper products will increase. No-one is going to go back to using grass when they use toilet roll for the first time.’
Mr Laura was outraged at the comments. He said: ‘Basically, Mull’s wildlife and tourism industry will be flushed down the pan.
‘While it is perfectly legal for the chemical to be used, that is not to say that it will be legal forever.
‘We have huge concerns about the lack of environmental impact studies on the use of the Gazelle chemical in a vast area of land without the benefit of proper studies on the wildlife impact.
‘If the chemical gets into the water course, it may bring an end to the reason that Mull is famous throughout the world – for its beauty and wildlife.’
Mr Shilsden added: ‘In June 2014, the task force on systemic pesticides published the largest global study into the effects and risks of systemic pesticides, including neonicotinoids.
‘Having studied more than 1,000 peer-reviewed papers, it concluded that neonicotinoids impact all species that chew a plant, sip its sap, drink its nectar, eat its pollen or fruit, and these impacts cascade through an ecosystem, weakening its stability.
‘We all know that killing the weevils that feed on the tree stumps will cause one kind of ecological disaster in the food chain, while putting the same chemicals into the water will change the whole chemical environment of Mull.
‘It is simply environmental terrorism for toilet rolls in China. It is a disgrace.’
John Little, a district manager for Tilhill, said: ‘We are using a product that is licensed by the government for use in the way that Tilhill is using it. We are here to listen to our customers.’