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Public shut out of popular Gougane Barra amenity

Saturday, 8th March, 2014 5:00pm
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Public shut out of popular Gougane Barra amenity

Barricades (above) at the entrance to Gougane Barra National Forest Park, where Coillte and the Forest Service claim the disease P. ramorum has been detected in larch trees

Barricades (above) at the entrance to Gougane Barra National Forest Park, where Coillte and the Forest Service claim the disease P. ramorum has been detected in larch trees


STRIKING differences have been revealed in the methods of dealing with Phytophthora ramorum, the tree fungus that has led to the closure of Gougane Barra Forest Park, between Coillte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

In their response to recent queries, which unfortunately came too late for last week’s report (Southern Star, p2), the NPWS said it deals with the disease by felling and burning infected plants as well as any susceptible plants within a two-mile radius.

The NPWS has said that in the past, there have been outbreaks of P ramorum within Killarney National Park, where P ramorum has predominately been found in Rhododendron ponticum. The NPWS explained that it has worked with the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to deal with this issue.

‘Scientists from the Department of Agriculture have visited the park and surveyed for P ramorum. Several infected plants were located and dealt with by park personnel following the guidelines set down by the Department of Agriculture. This involved felling and burning of infected plants. Any susceptible plants within a two-metre radius of the infected plants were also removed,’ the NPWS spokesperson said.

It has also found the fungal disease on two larch and one silver fir which have been dealt with similarly, and is awaiting results from other trees mainly larch.

Coillte says clear-felling is necessary in Gougane Barra due to the extent of the disease.

So why are different approaches being taken by both bodies? If limited control with burning of the affected plants is used by NPWS in Killarney, why is clear-felling with transportation and commercial use of affected timber the Coillte approach?

Other key questions still remain unanswered, including when the disease was first identified in Gougane Barra, the number of infected trees, the destination of the timber and the locations of the other outbreaks of the disease within Co Cork.

A further response was received from the Department of Agriculture this week: Disease symptoms, they say, were identified in Gougane Barra during the summer 2013. Ten of 28 findings of P. ramorum nationally are in Co Cork mainly in the west of the county they state.

Five of these were detected following the 2013 surveys. The Department hasn’t publicly identified the locations of the Cork outbreaks or stated the extent of felling required in the remaining areas.

Samples confirmed the presence of the disease in several locations within the forest park, they state, without giving any figures. Again, the Department hasn’t provided the destination of the logs, except to say they will be sent under licence to Department approved mills for processing. ‘Biosecurity protocols are centred on keeping haulage trucks and logs in a clean condition with the necessary accompanying documentation for traceability,’ the spokesperson said.

‘The decision to clearfell was not taken lightly but it is considered to be the most appropriate course of action given the epidemiology of the disease and the distribution of symptomatic trees within the forest park,’ the statement concluded.