Storm Debi has highlighted the dangers posed by unmanaged trees and brought attention to the issue of public safety surrounding ash dieback, according to Senator Victor Boyhan. The storm, which brought strong winds, caused power outages, transportation disruptions, and numerous fallen trees and branches across Ireland on November 13th. Senator Boyhan noted that in the aftermath of the storm, ash dieback-affected trees, wood, and branches collapsed onto public roads and land boundaries. He called on government departments to provide funding and logistical support to local authorities and landowners for the safe removal of these affected trees.
Senator Boyhan emphasized the liability of tree owners in cases where fallen trees cause damage. He expressed his intention to work with farm organizations to address this liability issue, stating, “Practical support to assist in the removal of ash dieback-affected trees needs to commence with the cooperation and support of the government and its agencies.” He further urged all 31 local authorities to be empowered and resourced in order to coordinate and administer a new action plan and fund dedicated to removing unsafe trees affected by ash dieback.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) currently does not provide funding for the removal of roadside trees or for private homeowners with ash trees in rural gardens. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, clarified that the responsibility for the care and management of trees adjacent to roads lies with the landowner on whose land the trees are growing. He advised landowners to familiarize themselves with their legal obligations in relation to their land ownership. The DAFM has published a guide titled “A Guide for Landowners to Managing Roadside Trees” on its website to provide guidance on this matter.
Minister McConalogue confirmed that all forestry funding options have been explored under state aid rules with the European Commission. The DAFM has obtained approval for the Reconstitution Scheme for Ash Dieback, which provides funding for clearing sites and replanting. Under the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027, landowners entering the scheme can receive payments ranging from €5,858/ha to €10,555/ha for clearing and replanting. However, it is important to note that compensation for loss of timber value or other financial loss is not eligible under the aid for the prevention and restoration of damage to forests, as stated by the commission in November 2022.
The impact of Storm Debi has highlighted the need for proper management and removal of trees affected by ash dieback. Senator Boyhan’s call for funding and support from government departments, as well as his emphasis on liability for tree owners, underscores the urgency of addressing this issue. With the cooperation and resources provided to local authorities, a new action plan and fund can be implemented to ensure the safe removal of unsafe trees. Furthermore, the DAFM’s publication of a guide for landowners on managing roadside trees and the availability of funding through the Reconstitution Scheme for Ash Dieback demonstrate efforts to address the challenges posed by this tree disease.