Government must take tree disease more seriously, says CLA

25 October 2013

The CLA said today (Thursday, 25 October) that the serious outbreak of the ash tree blight Chalara fraxinea must be a watershed in the Government's approach to combating tree diseases and tree pests.

The CLA said today (Thursday, 25 October) that the serious outbreak of the ash tree blight Chalara fraxinea must be a watershed in the Government's approach to combating tree diseases and tree pests.

CLA South East Regional Director Robin Edwards said: "The revelation that Chalara is now in the wild is devastating. Ash is one of Britain's iconic trees and our treasured landscape will look desolate without it.

"For far too long successive governments have failed to tackle the growing threat of tree diseases. Phytophthora ramorum has spread like wildfire up the west coast of Britain, from Cornwall to Scotland, killing hundreds of thousands of larch trees, and it is now moving eastward. Yet a mere £4million a year has been earmarked to fight it.

"Oak Processionary Moth strips oaks of all their leaves and is a health hazard to people. Yet it could have been stopped if government had made enough resources available to spray the moths at the caterpillar stage while it was still confined to a small area of London and before it spread to neighbouring counties."

Mr Edwards added: "Environment Secretary Owen Paterson still needs to order an immediate ban on imports of ash trees. However, because this week's findings by foresters suggest that some outbreaks have resulted from fungal spores blowing in from mainland Europe, it is going to be very hard to stop the disease now.

"Government must prioritise investment into managing these pests and diseases and into research on how we can make our trees more resilient to attack by disease."

CLA Chairman of Forestry and Woodland National Committee Edward Barham said: ""It is early days for the Chalara disease facing our Ash trees but if the worst predictions come true, that 90% of trees are killed, then our countryside will change forever as a result of this disease. Ash is thought to be some 30% of trees in England and their loss will affect everyone. Is this Dutch Elm Disease II? We can only pray that it is not."