In response to the Government’s control plan on ash dieback announced today, Dr Simon Pryor, Director of the Natural Environment at the National Trust, said:
“It is too late to eradicate this disease, but this plan could buy us time. If we – Government, landowners and foresters – can all work together to reduce the rate at which it spreads across the country we can find ways to ease its impact on our landscapes and wildlife. But we must use this time energetically, to explore every possible way in which we can increase the resilience of our trees and woods.
“The National Trust will be inspecting and where necessary removing and replacing all recently planted ash trees on our land, and we call on everyone who has planted ash trees in the last few years to do the same.
“This is a pragmatic plan, but there are still many unanswered questions about this disease. We are pleased that the Secretary of State has said that plant health was one of his top priorities. But it is vital that he does actually make new resources available to enable Defra, FERA and the Forestry Commission to deliver this plan, rather than rely on others.
“Once these diseases become established it is clear we can’t eradicate them. So the one really big lesson from this disaster is that we must stop importing pests and diseases in the first place. The Government must show real leadership by improving controls over the trade in plants and biosecurity at ports. We must not be wringing our hands again in a few years time when yet another devastating pest or disease is found.”
Further detail about what the National Trust will be doing
Speaking about what the National Trust will be doing over the coming months Dr Pryor commented: “The Trust has already removed thousands of young infected trees that we had planted. We will continue our inspections this summer and where appropriate will be removing and replacing infected young trees.
“But one thing that we and other owners must not do is prematurely fell any older trees simply because we think they might be infected. We need to ensure they remain safe, but there is still a chance some of these mature trees will pull through. It is much better for wildlife for the trees to gradually decline than be felled prematurely.
“We will also be making our woodland available to researchers so they can carry out trials and learn more about this disease. We have also offered our plant conservation centre as an additional resource for growing disease free native ash which can be planted once conditions have improved.
“This disease has revealed some alarming practices in the nursery trade, and we are taking a long, hard look at how we can ensure the young trees we plant are healthy and genuinely home grown.”