Dealing with storm damage
For forest owners who have experienced windblow, the most important advice is not to rush into decisions but to make a step-by-step plan to minimise risk and maximise the salvage value of your plantation. Most forests, despite being blown, can have considerable timber value.
The following steps will assist forest owners in planning and harvesting:
- Think Safety first, a windblown forest is a dangerous place. That is why windblown trees should only be dealt with by fully trained and accredited operators. This work becomes even more hazardous where road safety and electricity supply lines are involved. Always follow the Health and Safety Authority's guidelines very carefully. All parties involved (including forest owners) have legal obligations. See the Health and Safety section for detailed and relevant advice..
- If your plantation is insured for windblow, contact your insurance company immediately. Inform them that your plantation is damaged. The insurance company will assign an assessor to assess the damage.
- Get independent advice from your local forestry adviser or from a forestry consultant (List of Registered Foresters PDF) and also other qualified professionals such as insurance advisors, taxation experts, etc.
- Assess the area, timber volume and likely value of the windblow in your forest. You also need to assess the adjacent area that has not blown. Dependent on factors such as age, area and risk of windblow, you need to decide whether or not it is best to retain the adjoining area and to allow it to grow on to normal harvesting age, or to harvest this area together with the area that has suffered windblow. Most plantations are unlikely to be entirely blown. Where a forest is partially windblown, it is important that a forestry professional assesses the remaining standing trees for stability. Where the forester deems that such trees are unstable, these should be included in the felling licence application.
- Apply for a Felling Licence from the the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). A Felling Licence will be required to harvest the windblown timber and potentially any adjacent trees that may be at risk of windblow. If there is an existing licence in place, you need to specify the licence number in your new felling licence application. This will allow the DAFM to cancel the existing licence as the same land cannot have two licences. Apply as soon as possible as the licencing process will take a long time. Further information on felling can be found here.
- Consider access to the forest and specifically the windblown area and if necessary apply for a roading grant from the DAFM. Applications should be made through a forestry consultant: see List of Registered Foresters (PDF).
- Market the windblown timber and get professional advice on current prices. Joining with a group of forest owners to sell timber will provide you with scale and efficiency. It may also reduce costs thereby maximising salvage value. Larger timber lots are more attractive to buyers. A Guide to Forest Owner Groups in Ireland (PDF).
- Make sure that you have a suitable timber sales contract in place to protect your interests and to ensure compliance with a range of requirements. The contract needs to stipulate agreed timber prices, duration of contract, indemnity, insurance, arbitration provisions, felling licence conditions, agreed harvesting procedures, environmental obligations, health and safety regulations, relevant maps and schedules and so on.
- Control the movement of timber from your site using a strong Timber Sales Dispatch System for security and accountability in timber sales.
- Supervision and monitoring of the sale and harvesting operations will ensure you are complying with best practice and the provisions of the felling licence.
- Close off the sale and record keeping. This is important for accounting and tax, health and safety regulations, various environmental and other obligations. Make sure all timber is accounted for, paid for and that proper records are maintained.
- Replanting plan. Plan your harvest in conjunction with subsequent replanting, which is a legal obligation after felling. A badly planned and implemented harvesting operation will potentially increase the replanting cost, ground damage and the ability of your forest to recover quickly.
In the Harvesting and Selling Timber section, you will find key information on the timber harvesting process in six steps. This section takes some of the mystery out of harvesting and selling timber, enabling you to maintain control of your valuable forest resource throughout the process. It will also explain where you can get further information and professional assistance along the way.
Do you need assistance?
Teagasc Forestry Advisers are available to assist you with any questions you may have regarding the recent serious storms. You will receive independent, objective and professional advice. Contact details of your local Forestry Adviser.
Handling windblown trees is very dangerous and only fully trained and accredited operators should consider doing such work. This work becomes even more hazardous where road safety and electricity supply lines are involved.
Always follow the Health and Safety Authority's guidelines very carefully. All parties involved (including forest owners) have legal obligations. See also the Health and Safety section.