Deadly larch disease hits Oban forest

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Forestry and Land Scotland is preparing for felling work at Cologin Forest by Lerags, just south of Oban, in a bid to limit the impact of a deadly tree disease.

Phytophthora ramorum, which mainly affects and kills larch trees, has no known cure or remedy and the only available response requires felling affected trees before the disease has a chance to move on to new sites.

Forestry and Land Scotland has been served a Statutory Plant Health Notice that requires all affected trees – and other larch within a buffer zone – are felled by the end of February 2022.

Donald McNeill, FLS planning manager in the area, said: ‘The forest at Cologin is immediately adjacent to the main Oban water supply reservoir so we are liaising closely with Scottish Water, local neighbours and communities at Kilmore and Lerags as we prepare for this felling work.

‘We’ll have to construct forest tracks to get in to the site and, because public safety is always a top priority for us, we will, for a while, be closing off recreational access to Cologin Forest.

‘The impact of the disease can be devastating for larch and can have a significant impact on the look of forests and of the wider landscape. But if we are to slow the spread of this disease we must act quickly.

‘Slowing its spread also buys time for all the people who are working behind the scenes to find alternative, viable ways of tackling the disease.

‘We apologise in advance for any inconvenience that this might cause.’

FLS will begin site preparations from December with the main felling and extraction operations taking place from late 2021 into 2022.

The agency said the worksite zone will be strictly a no-go area, and it urges all visitors to observe and obey the safety signage in the forest.

The spores that cause the disease can travel from forest to forest on twigs, leaf litter and mud so anyone who regularly visits forests in the area can help stop the spread of the disease by following FLS’s ‘Keep It Clean’ advice and brush off forest debris and mud from their boots, walking gear, bike wheels and dogs paws before and after a forest visit.