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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Non-Native Spruce Trees in Millbuies Country Park to be Removed

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Non-native spruce trees in Millbuies Country Park, near Fogwatt, Moray will be reduced and replaced with native species to increase light and promote new wildlife.

Moray Council has identified that the woodland needs to be managed to improve its biodiversity and boost its resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The local authority is working with forestry conservation experts to remove non-native spruce trees by chainsaw on the north side of the loch above the path and replacing them with native broadleaves and Scots pine.

To protect the area, heavy machinery won’t be used on the banks.

Instead, felled trees will be winched up the hill by remote control, using a 16 ton digger with a 14 ton harvester head attached.

For public safety signage will be installed alerting park users to the closure of the south path where the felling will take place.

The north side will remain open to the public during the works, which are expected to start during the first week of September and last for several months, weather-dependent.

Around 55% of the 54 hectare area is classed as local native woodland.

Many of the non-native spruce trees planted for commercial purposes around 1980 are at maturity for harvesting.

Evenly aged tree stands can be a greater risk during storms, making them dangerous to the public enjoying the park.

Their removal will also open the canopy of the woodland to let sunlight in to help establish the next generation of native trees, as well as encourage more shrubs, ferns and flowers to grow.

A more diverse mix of tree age and species will increase biodiversity within the woodland.

A recent ecological study found there are many species of birdlife in Millbuies Country Park including ospreys.

Otter, water vole, badger, red squirrel, pine marten, four bat species, wildcat, and barn owl were also recorded in the ecological study.

Chair of Moray Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Services Committee, Cllr Marc Macrae, said:

“This work includes vital selective removal of about three hectares of trees to help other ground flora like ferns and bluebells to grow once we create light and open space for butterflies and small mammals.

“We know that woods with a diverse variety of trees supports a greater number of wildlife and can better resist the impacts of climate change.

“The focus of this woodland work is to improve biodiversity of the Millbuies Country Park so keeping a diverse mix, including some non-natives, for climate resilience is important.”

The Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund covered the costs of compiling a woodland management plan while Elgin Common Good Fund is funding the works with income from timber harvesting being returned to the fund.

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