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. Only qualified and insured people should be permitted access (up to City & Guilds NPTC CS35 level may be required). All parties have legal obligations when carrying out forestry operations under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2005. For further details, see Managing Safety and Health in Forestry Operations.
- 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. In addition, assess the adjacent area that has not blown. Taking account of factors such as age, area and risk of windblow, a decision will need to be made whether or not it is best to retain the adjoining area and to allow it to grow on to normal clearfell 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 Forest Service, DAFM to fell/harvest the windblown timber and potentially any adjacent trees that may be at risk of windblow after the felling/removal of the windblown trees. If there is an existing licence for the land, please specify the licence number in your new felling licence application. The existing licence has to be cancelled before a new licence can issue as the same land cannot have two licences. Ensure that the felling licence is signed by the land owner and where clearfelling is proposed, that details of the species being replanted are provided. 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 Forest Service, DAFM. Applications should be made through a forestry consultant: see List of Registered Foresters (PDF).
- Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 there is an obligation on landowners to gather information about site hazards and to produce a site risk assessment together with a site hazards map.
- 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).
- Have a strong Timber Sales Contract in place to protect the interests of all parties and to ensure compliance with environmental requirements, felling licence, health and safety regulations, indemnity, insurance, agreed harvesting procedures, timber prices, duration of contract, arbitration provisions, relevant maps and schedules and other requirements. The Master Tree Sales Agreement produced by the Irish Timber Growers Association should be consulted.
- Control the movement of timber from your site using a strong Timber Sales Dispatch System for security and accountability in timber sales. See the ITGA Model Timber Sales Dispatch System (PDF).
- 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.
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 Managing safety in forestry operations and Operating a chainsaw safely.