RFS calls for urgent clarity over new ash regulations
The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) is calling for clear guidance for woodland owners and managers wondering how to proceed with planting schemes which include ash among the species, and is seeking clarification on how movement restrictions will be applied within the UK to existing ash stock intended for planting this winter.
While welcoming confirmation of a ban on ash imports, and the announcement of task force headed by the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Boyd, RFS Management Committee Chair Andrew Woods warns that many woodland owners and managers have been left wondering whether they can go ahead with planting schemes – some of which may have been approved for woodland grants – this season.
October to April is the main planting season. Many of the UK’s woodlands are made up of a mix of ash with other native trees, such as oak. Woodland grants are approved by the Forestry Commission for planting schemes which can include these mixes.
Andrew Woods said: “With stocks of native ash not able to meet ash demand, and imported stock now, rightly, banned, woodland owners and managers are looking for advice on what to do. They want to know whether to substitute alternative species for ash or simply raise the percentage of other species already in the mixture.
“There may also be schemes where some planting compartments which do not involve ash could go ahead, but where other areas which include ash may not. We are not clear yet what implications it might have on grant payments should planting schemes be only partly implemented because of this crisis.”
Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) is a fungal disease and widespread on the Continent – in Denmark it has killed 90 per cent of all ash. The recent announcement of findings in native trees in East Anglia, in addition to imported trees, suggests that ash dieback may now be spreading across native trees, raising the spectre of a loss of trees in the countryside and in towns on a scale last seen by Dutch Elm Disease. Eighty million trees may be at risk in the UK.
Suspected cases of ash dieback MUST be reported. Details of how to identify and report the disease and are available on the Forestry Commission web site www.forestry.gov.uk with further details at www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara. The Forestry Commission has today released a useful video (on YouTube) which provides advice on how to identify Chalara fraxinea symptoms in the field.
Important information for visitors to woodlands
Please arrive in clean footwear – and scrub up again before leaving the venue.
The RFS follows the biosecurity measures recommended by the Forestry Commission (FC) and Defra to minimise the risk of spreading soil-borne tree infections. Clean boots are a first step!
For further information, please visit the Forestry Commission’s biosecurity page, which contains information about plant pests and diseases, plus downloadable posters and factsheets.