A new strategy to tackle Ash dieback has been published today by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson alongside the Tree and Plant Health Task Force’s interim report.
The Chalara Control Plan sets out the Government’s objectives for tackling the disease and outlines what further action will be taken over the next few months.
"I spoke to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson directly to advise him on the situation because to penalise woodland owners already struggling with the costs of the disease would be grossly unfair" said CLA President Harry Cotterell.
The plan highlights the need to: reducing the rate of spread, developing resistance to the disease in the native UK ash tree population, encouraging citizen, landowner and industry engagement and action in tackling the problem; and building resilience in the UK woodland and associated industries.
"We need to radically rethink how we deal with the threats to our trees. That’s why I asked Defra’s chief scientist to lead a panel of experts to identify what needs to be done to tackle the growing problem of tree diseases" said Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
"While the science tells us it won’t be possible to eradicate this disease, we mustn’t give up on British ash."
"The plan I have set out today shows our determination to slow the spread and minimise the impact of Chalara."
"It will also give us time to find those trees with genetic resistance to the disease and to restructure our woodlands to make them more resilient."
The government introduced an import ban for ash trees in a bid to reduce the speed of the spread.
Landowners and conservation organisations have been urged to continue working with government agencies to check sites across the UK for signs of infected trees.
The Control Plan outlines some additional actions including: researching spore production at infected sites; working closely with other European countries that have been affected by Chalara to share data and experience on resistance to the disease; funding a study to accelerate the development of the ObservaTREE, a tree health early warning system using volunteer groups; and working with the horticulture and nursery sectors on long-term resilience to the impact of Chalara and other plant health threats.
"Chalara fraxinea is not the only disease affecting trees at the moment" said CLA President Cotterell.
"At least one new major tree pest or disease affects the UK every year, so we will take time to study the detail in the Task Force’s report."
“It is vital that measures such as restricting the importation of sweet chestnut and London plane trees are implemented immediately to halt the spread of further devastation in our trees and woodlands.”
An independent Task Force on Tree and Plant Health has also published its interium recommendations today after it was set up by Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser, to assess the current disease threats to the UK.
Paterson said: "The Task Force’s interim recommendations are a robust answer to my call for radical ideas on how to protect Britain from tree and plant diseases. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final report early next year."
Ian Boyd welcomed the Task Force's report and said: "I’d like to thank the Task Force for its work so far. The report brings forward some interesting ideas and advice from experts that we will consider."
"It’s important to listen to the views of others and bring together the best ideas and advice from experts. We need the most up-to-date and robust evidence to support our decisions, and the Task Force will help us do just that."