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Parliament to consider funds for Hurricane Lothar clean up operation

The government will be asking parliament to approve funds to pay for the devastating damage caused to forests by hurricane Lothar in December.

This content was published on January 18, 2000 - 18:26

The government will be asking parliament to approve funds to pay for the devastating damage caused to forests by hurricane Lothar in December.

The storm felled 15 million trees in the Swiss midland plain, which would normally amount to two and a half years of annual timber production.

The federal environment agency, BUWAL, has just issued a handbook for forestry officials to decide whether to remove dead wood or to leave it lying on the ground. The wood will only be removed if it presents a danger to human beings, property or the forest, a senior government forestry official told a news conference in Berne.

After the last great storm, Vivian, ten years ago, most damaged trees were removed, leading to high transport costs, several fatal accidents, and increased ecological damage.

No one yet knows what the aftermath of Lothar will cost. The federal government can pay up to 50 per cent of clear-up costs ordered by cantonal forestry officials.

A trickier problem is posed by the likely fall in wood prices caused by the glut in timber now available on the market. To help offset this, the federal authorities will be subsidising the storage of valuable timber until prices rise again. This is all the more important, as Switzerland's neighbours also now have a timber glut.

An unquantifiable threat is posed by the bark-beetle, which is again expected to wreak havoc amongst the fallen timber.

By Peter Haller

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