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Britain’s woodlands under assault

PR from Golly Slater PR on behalf of  Woodsure August 2016

Brits told they have the power to save trees

Today, Britain’s woodlands are suffering from unprecedented attacks from pests and diseases as the threat to the UK’s biosecurity rises

Andrew Harvey, founder of Woodsure, the UK’s only wood fuel quality assurance scheme and director of Grown in Britain, discusses a number of issues affecting Britain’s woodlands and highlights how we, as consumers, can help by refusing to buy imported firewood logs to heat our homes.

It may seem premature to suggest, in the height of summer, that we should start thinking about stocking up on our winter fuel, ready for the colder weather.  In fact, the summer months are the ideal time to stock up on wood fuel for your stove or boiler as suppliers will often offer more competitive prices out of season.  How many of us however, will be buying wood fuel brought into the UK from overseas?  It seems more of us are taking this option and unwittingly threatening the biosecurity of Britain’s woodlands.

When consumers purchase poor quality imported firewood, there is a very real danger that potential pests and diseases are being brought into the UK.  The emerald ash borer beetle, already advancing through Russia, Canada and the United States, is an example of this; an insect wiping out/killing ash trees in various parts of the world which has been directly linked to firewood distribution.   Logs imported with bark on may harbour this potentially devastating stowaway.

We only need to look across the Atlantic to see the scale of the threat. Canadian Ash trees have been decimated by the arrival of the beetle in North America – and it only arrived there in 2002.

Native to Asia, the beetle has proven to be highly destructive killing tens of millions of ash trees since first being discovered in Ontario, Canada.  It continues to spread into new areas, with considerable economic and ecological impacts.  Canadian Forest Service (CFS) scientists estimate that costs for treatment, removal and replacement of trees affected by emerald ash borer in Canadian municipalities may reach $2 billion over a 30-year period.

It’s a fact, tree-killing insects and diseases can lurk in firewood.  Although they can’t move far on their own, they can jump hundreds or even thousands of miles when given a ride in firewood distribution.  It is important to remember, native trees have defences against the insects and diseases that they’ve been living with for millions of years.  Non-native insects and diseases however, have few predators in their new homes and the trees have no natural defences against them.  As the foreign bugs have little to stop them, they quickly reproduce and in no time at all, are out of control, killing the trees in their path.

The ash borer beetle is just one of a number of assaults on native trees and by damaging habitats, they are also damaging the biodiversity of our woodlands.   While Britain has some of the best woodlands in the world, they could soon be a lot poorer if they struggle to resist a damaging invasion.  Looking at the devastation in North America, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Ash tree could disappear from our landscape much like the Elm tree has.

So how do we tackle this problem?  We know the dangers of importing firewood in general could lead to pests being brought into the UK. Certainly, the perceived risk is so great, border controls in this country have been increased as a preventative measure but we could do more.  In the US they have set up a public information campaign called ‘Don't Move Firewood’ to communicate a clear message – the transportation of invasive insects and diseases through firewood is destroying trees in urban, suburban and forest areas.  www.dontmovefirewood.org/the-problem

In the last two years in the UK around 200,000 wood burning stoves were purchased and as the demand for wood fuel grows, we can all help to tackle the issue by ensuring we buy home grown firewood as fuel to heat our homes this winter.  Yes, this will prevent the introduction of pests and diseases to the UK, but it will also support local jobs and local economies.  The levels of imports will be reduced and therefore the risk of importing pests and diseases.  By buying British firewood logs, we will not only be protecting our woodland habitats but also will be helping to support British jobs in the forestry sector.

It would be great to see Britain return to using home grown fuel.  As we moved to coal and joined the ‘dash for gas’, there was a loss of understanding about how to use wood as a fuel.  In France, where there is a long tradition of using solid fuel wood burning stoves and boilers to heat the home and the water supply, it is second nature and the skills have been passed on through the families.  Wood can be an efficient, sustainable source of energy and we should be encouraging its use and looking to reacquire the skills to make the most of it.

Sadly, in the UK, we have just 13% woodland cover - the lowest levels in Europe - and 42% of our woodlands sit under managed and neglected.  Bringing these neglected woodlands back into sustainable management would not only improve the diversity and health of the woodland but also provide a great source to supply the UK wood fuel market – a goal that Woodsure is supporting by working in partnership with Grown in Britain who independently assure logs are from the UK through their wood fuel licensing and branding scheme.  Look for the logo!

The Government recognises the challenge and the opportunity. Working alongside the forestry sector (both industry and conservation bodies) it has set a goal to bring more woodland into management (the aspiration is 66% by 2018 and 80% in the long term: the UK is at 58% at the moment).   A healthy, quality wood fuel market holds the key to getting our woodlands back into management.  At Woodsure, we’re keen to encourage more harvesting and planting, thereby ensuring healthier woodlands in Britain.

Founded in 2009, Woodsure was created to provide a level of assurance for consumers when looking to buy wood fuel. Today the Woodsure scheme is a recognised standard within the UK’s wood fuel market.   It has established itself as the hallmark of quality, conscientiousness and responsibility for installers, suppliers and consumers.  Those who buy Woodsure approved wood fuel from the 800+ wood fuel suppliers and producers in the UK can do so knowing that they are helping to stimulate market demand and protecting our indigenous flora and fauna.

 

-ENDS-

NOTES TO EDITORS
Woodsure is the UK’s only wood fuel quality assurance scheme. Founded by Andrew Harvey, Woodsure is a not-for-profit organisation with the aim of raising the quality of wood fuel in the biomass heating industry. The Woodsure certification scheme and its logo give those burning wood fuel a brand they can trust. Woodsure has extensive experience in the wood fuel industry. The organisation is constantly evolving to keep pace with this rapidly developing sector. The Woodsure Certification scheme ensures wood fuel producers can process wood fuel to meet recognised international standards. The Woodsure Certification scheme offers a universally recognised mark of quality, that both industry practitioners and consumers can trust. For more information, visit woodsure.co.uk and www.growninbritain.org

The Grown in Britain brand identifies wood that has been grown in Britain and assured through its licensing scheme. It is a mark that shows where that timber has come from and provides assurance that it doesn’t just come from Britain, but that the forests and woods were managed to the government’s UK Forestry and public procurement standards. Visit www.growninbritain.org.

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