Forestry body draws up ash dieback action plan

Forestry body Confor has drawn up an action plan on pests and diseases following the identification of Chalara ash dieback in 154 sites across the UK.

The 11-point action plan is divided into three sections:
•    Chalara outbreak;
•    Prevention and control of pests & disease;
•    Growing and managing woodland to reduce risk.

Among the actions that Confor is calling for from the various governments in the UK are:
•    A fast-track decision-making system that allows for immediate controls on imports to be put in place when new outbreaks are detected.
•    To work with the forest industry and tree nurseries to develop a plan for growing potentially all trees in the UK.
•    To establish, urgently, the extent of the spread of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea).  
•    To ensure sufficient resources are put in place through 2013 budgets to deal with the current outbreaks and to promote more management of the UK’s forests and woodlands.

Confor also wants all nurseries growing trees to adopt the Confor Nursery Producers Group traceability scheme, so that woodland owners and managers have all the necessary information on which to make sensible decisions.

Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall, who attended a crisis summit to discuss ash dieback with Westminster ministers last week, as well as one in Scotland this week, said: "We need to learn the lessons of this, and other recent outbreaks, and take the urgent action necessary to protect our valuable forestry resource. How can we be better placed to tackle future problems?"

Confor has considered the idea of an immediate total ban on plant imports, but rejected this in favour of more targeted action. Diseases, including ash dieback, are windborne and others can be transmitted by birds and animals.

Ash dieback has been confirmed in 155 sites across the UK (as at 13 November 2012), mostly in eastern England, but clustered in East Anglia and the southeast.

Goodall said: "We hope the Westminster Government will look at the package of measures we are putting forward.  It is vital that the UK and devolved administrations work together effectively.

"It is important to see the current crisis in the context of other tree diseases. Confor is concerned that Forestry Commission’s resources are stretched beyond breaking and that this will impact on action to contain other tree diseases, notably Phytophthora ramorum in larch and Dothistroma in pine, as well as oak dieback and others.  With staff diverted to Chalara working extraordinary hours, the Forestry Commission’s regular business of approving new planting and forest management schemes must not be allowed to suffer."

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