The Tree Health Pilot has been updated, improving the level of support to farmers and land managers dealing with pest and disease issues.
Grants and advice are available through the scheme, which runs from 2021 to 2024, to build the resilience of England’s trees, woodlands and forests ahead of the nationwide Tree Health Scheme rollout.
The Pilot is available in London, the South East, the North West and the West Midlands. Following more than 80 expressions of interest received in the first year, Defra and the Forestry Commission have evaluated user feedback and made several changes.
In line with changes made across the Countryside Stewardship and the England Woodland Creation Offer schemes, the payment rates for standard capital cost items are increasing. Maintenance rates will rise from £300 to £350 per hectare per year for trees planted in woodland.
To cover coordination costs for group applications, payments to the group facilitator will rise to £24 per hour.
Chief plant health officer Nicola Spence said: “This Pilot supports land managers to deal quickly and effectively with tree health issues. By funding innovative methods to fell and restock diseased trees, for instance, using skylines or horse loggers to reach larch trees in remote areas, and encouraging group collaboration to deal more efficiently with roadside ash – it ensures a comprehensive and targeted approach to better protecting our trees.
“We have been able to gather meaningful feedback for the design of our future Tree Health Scheme, with a greater focus on tailoring support to land managers where most needed and equipping them with practical tools to reduce and manage future threats in order to create more resilient treescapes.”
Forestry Commission chair, Sir William Worsley, said: “From lone trees to entire woodlands, a thriving treescape is not only fundamental to our health and wellbeing but crucial for combatting climate change, improving biodiversity and growing local economies.
“These improvements will ensure greater participation in the scheme, better knowledge of the issues around tree health, and swifter action to tackle pests and diseases – all helping to protect our trees now and for future generations.”
The Tree Health Pilot covers five tree types, including ash affected by ash dieback, oak trees infested with Oak Processionary Moth, and sweet chestnut infected by sweet chestnut blight. Plants and trees are said to deliver around £15.7 billion each year in social, environmental and economic benefits across England so reducing pest and disease risk is crucial.