SHOULD we be concerned at all by the Forestry Commission’s move to simplify felling licence applications in direct response to the threat of pests and diseases?

From October 22, it says a limited number of felling licence applications directly related to the management of tree pests and diseases may be exempt from being included on the Public Consultation Register before the trees are felled, where tree felling needs to be expedited for an ‘overriding biosecurity or public safety benefit’.

Should we be worried by the fact that, in its own press release, the FC cites not only ash dieback, but Ips typographus (spruce bark beetle) as a factor in its decision-making?

Read more: Let's deal with the F-words - forestry and farming

Farmers, foresters and contractors across the UK are well aware of the devastation caused by Chalara ash dieback in recent years. Similarly, Phytophthora ramorum has scarred landscapes across Scotland, ripping through stands of larch at an inexorable rate.

At the same time, Ips has been threatening from the sidelines – a concern to keep an eye on as it runs rampant through Europe, but not an issue of direct consequence to these shores.

The most destructive non-native bark beetle to have established on the British Isles, Ips favours Norway spruce, but has been shown to be partial to Sitka. Given the make-up of commercial forestry in Scotland, if it manages to make the journey north, the impact would be catastrophic.

Recent reports of outbreaks in Kent and Sussex suggest it is still confined to the South East of England, but who expects it to remain there? Reading of the actions of the FC, and of a new consultation on plant pests and diseases or of the apparent inadequacy of the UK’s new plant passporting system, I can’t help but worry there are many more headlines on Ips to come.

The change to felling licences is just one of many stories covered in the October issue of Forestry Journal. Other features include:

• Calum Duffy of Duffy Skylining speaks his mind on the challenges facing chainsaw operators;

• An in-depth look at the UK’s new plant passport system;

• Coverage of the UK Logging Championship 2021 and Garnock Valley Carves;

• Our monthly Buyer’s Guide focusing on tree care and protection.

To learn more, visit