Defra introduces oak import restrictions to tackle oak processionary moth

Restrictions on the import of most species of oak into England have been introduced as part of new regulations to protect native trees from the threat of Oak Processionary Moth (OPM).

The new regulations ban the movement of certain oak trees into the UK’s OPM Protected Zone (an area of the EU declared free of the pest) unless specific conditions are met. They cover both imports from overseas and movement of trees from areas of the country where OPM is already present – in London and surrounding counties.
Oak processionary moth has caterpillars that are covered in irritant hairs that can pose a health risk to humans and animals. The moth is not native to the UK but has become established in London and some surrounding areas since it was first found in south west London in 2005.
The measures cover all oaks (Quercus) – with the exception of cork oak (Quercus suber) - which have a girth of 8cm or more at 1.2 metres above the root collar and are imported from either the EU or a third country or moving into the Protected Zone from other parts of England. This is because such trees represent the greatest likelihood of introducing OPM.
The regulations apply to all businesses which import and move oak trees.    
Defra Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence said: "Protecting our country from tree pests and diseases is vital to safeguard our environment, economy and our health.
"That is why we are introducing tighter restrictions on the importation of oak trees to England, and the movement of oak trees out of certain parts of South East England which are infested with OPM. 
‘’Through investment, research and legislation we will continue to help protect our precious oak trees for years to come."
The Forestry Commission, councils and land managers tackle the pest which affects Greater London and several surrounding counties with an annual control programme of tree treatment.  
The new restrictions follow the launch of the Government’s first Tree Health Resilience Strategy in May which pledged tough action to protect the nation’s trees from pests, diseases and climate change.  A key element of the strategy is the Action Oak campaign which seeks to protect the UK’s 121 million oak trees for future generations. 
The HTA said: "The industry welcomes any move towards protecting our country from tree pests & diseases and this legislation does so by strengthening our OPM Protected Zone here in the UK.

"The legislation was developed by Defra’s Tree Health Policy Group and is part of the Government's Tree Health Resilience Strategy."

Matthew Appleby

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