Press release

New quarantine proposals to protect England's trees

Environment Secretary launches first Tree Health Resilience Strategy to protect England’s trees from pests and diseases for generations to come.

Photo credit: Natural England
Woods

Proposals to consult industry on new quarantine arrangements for high-risk plants are among the measures set out today (Friday 25 May) in the Government’s plan to protect the UK’s precious trees.

Currently quarantine is used by some horticulture businesses as part of strong biosecurity measures against high-risk species. We want to explore how this targeted approach can be broadened out so we have better protection against harmful pests and diseases right across the industry.

Once we leave the EU we will have the chance to tighten biosecurity measures further and take swifter, more targeted action against serious threats like Xylella.

The Tree Health Resilience Strategy, the first major publication to come out of the 25-Year Environment Plan, sets out a new proactive approach to tree health, with landowners, charities, the public and government working together to take actions to build resilience against pests and diseases to protect the nation’s trees – worth an estimated £175billion.

As part of this approach, a new senior cross-industry Plant Health Alliance to strengthen biosecurity practices across industry has been established. The Alliance brings together the country’s leading nurseries, retailers, tree suppliers, landscapers, foresters, the RHS and Defra to ensure an effective response to threats such as Xylella and Emerald Ash Borer.

Launching the strategy, Secretary of State Michael Gove said:

The UK has a global reputation for setting the high standards for biosecurity of plants and trees but there is no room for complacency. We must seize every opportunity offered by Brexit to strengthen our biosecurity.

In 10 years’ time I want to be able to say our oaks are thriving, that pests are being kept at bay and that our woodlands and forests are flourishing.

Trees benefit our economy, society and wellbeing significantly and this strategy sets out how we will preserve them for generations to come.

The Strategy also includes:

  • Launching the ‘Don’t Risk It’ campaign this summer to raise awareness of the risks of bringing back plant materials from holiday destinations

  • Consulting with industry on contingency plans for key threats to our trees and plants to ensure a swift and effective response should new pests and diseases enter the UK

  • Strengthening protection against Xylella – maintaining continuous scrutiny of the risk situation and taking measures to maintain the strongest possible controls

  • Building knowledge and awareness of threats to trees to ensure accurate and up to date information

  • Working in partnership with the sector to drive up biosecurity standards through assurance and safe sourcing

  • Exploring strengthening of public procurement strategies to specify safe sourcing, and

  • Reviewing passenger baggage allowance for regulated plant material to assess whether it should be discontinued.

Christine Reid, Head of Conservation for the Woodland Trust, said:

The Woodland Trust welcomes this strategy. It is an important step in coordinating the UK’s efforts to combat tree pests and diseases; we rely on our beloved trees, yet they are facing too many threats.

We need an effective biosecurity strategy, we need to plant more UK-sourced trees, and we need to develop the forestry sector. With the necessary knowledge, skills and capacity, we can ensure a healthy, resilient tree population.

This strategy outlines the key steps required, and has brought together the sector charged with making this happen.

Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission said:

Publishing this strategy is a critical milestone in our ongoing work to safeguard England’s trees.

It provides clear direction on how we can work collaboratively across sectors, to combat tree pests and diseases, to protect our beloved forests and woodlands for not only our current generation but for the future.

Published 25 May 2018