A ban on the import of ash trees to combat the threat of the tree disease ash dieback is being imposed with immediate effect, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced today.
The disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, leads to leaf loss and has already affected trees in England and Scotland, and killed trees in parts of mainland Europe. A rapid eight week consultation was launched which has shown that there is strong support for an import ban.
The ban is being put in place before the main planting season gets underway in late November. Movement restrictions will also be imposed, so that trees from infected areas will not be able to be moved to other locations within the UK.
Announcing his decision on a visit to Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, Owen Paterson said:
“This is a very serious disease that demands action to stop its spread. I have ordered both an import ban and movement restrictions on trees from infected areas. This comes into force immediately.
“Work is already underway to tackle the disease. Plant Health Authorities have been monitoring trees in infected areas to ensure early detection and trade bodies have been encouraging their members to impose voluntary import bans. By working together we can protect our native trees from this devastating disease.”
The Plant Health Authorities will remain on high alert across the country and will continue to look for signs of Chalara, ensuring infected trees are dealt with effectively.
Suspected cases of the disease should be reported to the Forestry Commission or Fera so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent the disease from spreading.
The legislation has been passed following a Fera led consultation based on the Pest Risk Assessment carried out by Forest Research on managing the threat to the UK’s ash trees.
The consultation document can be found here: http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/consultations/index.cfm.
In October last year we published the Tree Health Action Plan to help us to tackle the threats of pests and diseases and ensure that the UK’s defences against them are as robust as possible. The Plan can be found here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/crops/tree-health/.
The Plant Health Authority is made up of specialists from the Forestry Commission and the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera).
Further information, including a pictorial guide to symptoms, is available at www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara. Suspected cases of Chalara should be reported to one of the following:
Forest Research Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service - 01420 23000
Forestry Commission Plant Health Service - 0131 314 6414
Fera Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate - 01904 465625