Ring Barking and Felling Licences

I discussed the advantages of ring barking (or girdling) as a means of thinning young woodlands in a previous blog. An interesting point arises when considering Felling Licences in relation to ring- barking. The Forestry Act of 1967 allows up to 5 cubic metres of timber to be felled in each calendar quarter without a licence, any more than 5 cubic metres requires a licence from the Forestry Commission. There are exceptions, and among these are dead trees which do not require a licence to be felled at all.

It appears at first that there is a loophole in the Act since ring-barking is not felling, and when the trees are felled, a year or two later, they are dead and so not covered by the Act. I took this matter up with Gordon Inglis of the Forestry Commission at Edinburgh. He pointed out that in Section 35 of the Act, “felling includes wilfully destroying by any means”, this would include ring barking. This means that for anyone considering ring barking as a woodland management option a Felling Licence must be obtained before more than 5 cubic metres of timber are ring barked in any calendar quarter.

Of course among the advantages of ring barking is that it is quick, safe and not dependant on seasonal ground conditions, so a small wood could have up to 5 cubic metres of timber ring barked in each of the 4 seasons of a year without the need for a Felling Licence. If it is done regularly this should be enough for a silvicultural thinning in most small and medium sized woods. Felling the trees which have previously been ring barked will not require a Felling Licence no matter the volume of timber to be felled, so this can be done at short notice when the market or ground conditions are favourable without waiting for approval for a licence.