Illegal Cut Backs, National Tree Week & Tree-venge

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 24th November 2018
Illegal Cut Backs

Ironically, on the eve of National Tree Week, I have learned that illegal tree felling is on the increase in Wales. It is hard for anyone who was brought up in the country to fathom, but apparently some people think it’s OK to just go out onto public, and occasionally private, land and cut a tree down for firewood for their own use.  As always, there are two camps – those who genuinely don’t know that that is not the case, and those who do know and don’t care.

I can’t do much about the latter group, but I can try to minimise the former.

After witnessing an incident locally, I find it quite incredible that it is relatively common for someone to go into a public wood and fell and take trees for firewood, especially at this time of year.  Locally, it was three healthy ash trees that were felled and taken. It’s shocking.  But sadly, according to Natural Resources Wales, not uncommon.

Despite there being Laws in place to prevent the general public felling trees willy-nilly, Natural Resources Wales confirmed that reports of illegal tree felling are on the increase with approximately 100 reports of suspected illegal tree felling every year, either from members of the public or from other organisations. This results in between 10 and 20 proven cases of illegal felling, which can lead to prosecution under breaches of one or more articles of forestry legislation.

But as a spokesperson added, “The increase in reports could be as a result of more people actually taking action after becoming more aware of, and taking responsibility for, environmental issues.

One of the last devastating cases was the felling of 200 ancient beech trees in Blackwood, where a fine of £112,00 was imposed upon the perpetrator. “

The Natural Resources Wales website has all the information you need with regard to getting permission and licences for tree felling and also how to report illegal incidents  ‘Not knowing’ is not an excuse.’  Find out more at www.naturalresources.wales

As a colleague said to me recently, “Trouble is, these days people are more familiar with their rights than their wrongs.“

National Tree Week

Launched in 1975, National Tree Week is the UK’s largest tree celebration annually honouring the start of the winter tree planting season.  Initiated by the Tree Council, the UK’s lead charity for trees, it aims to promote the importance of trees in a changing environment.

National Tree Week is a great chance for communities to do something positive for their local treescape. Each year, The Tree Council’s member organisations such as voluntary bodies and local authorities, up to 200 schools and community groups, our 8,000 Tree Wardens and many others, support the initiative by setting up fun, worthwhile and accessible events, inspiring upward of a quarter of a million people to get their hands dirty and together plant around a million trees.

At the National Botanic Garden of Wales, on Monday 26th you can go along and plant trees to form a network of dormouse habitat.

Email peter.lee-thompson@gardenofwales.org.uk or visit www.botanicgarden.wales for more information.

And you can join in A Celebration of the Trees at Bishop’s Park in Abergwilli today (24th) Bishop’s Park.  Activities include making bird feeders, charcoal making, tree ID, den building and nature games and there will be an opportunity to sign in support of the Tree Charter and to write your message to the trees on a paper chain.

The session is from 9.30am-2.30pm and the session will close with tree dressing and a traditional wassail song. This is a free event, with no need to book.

You can find out about more events near you by visiting www.treecouncil.org.uk

Or if you can’t join in physically, then how about becoming a Friend of The Tree Council? You will help to put trees in school playgrounds, train the Tree Wardens who plant, care for and champion trees in their local communities, and act on issues of national concern – all for the price of a sandwich (and a coffee if you’re feeling generous). More details on their website.

Tree-venge

In conversation about illegal tree felling, I was reminded about an evergreen tree of the spurge family, the Sandbox Tree. Native to tropical regions of North and South America, including the Amazon Rain Forest,  The trees may look harmless  enough but they are covered with closely-packed thorns  and have poison stored in its bark, seeds and leaves, obviously to deter any unwelcome visitors.

But that’s not all – when this tree sheds its seeds, it does so by shooting them from the trunk like bullets, at a deadly 150 mph, up to 40 meters away.

Now that would be one way to discourage illegal tree felling, for sure.

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