Tougher controls to protect our native trees

EFFORTS are being stepped up to protect Britain’s native tree population from imported diseases following the discovery of ash dieback in the UK last year.

EFFORTS are being stepped up to protect Britain’s native tree population from imported diseases following the discovery of ash dieback in the UK last year.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has announced tougher controls covering the import of native species.

The regulations covering the import of oak, ash, sweet chestnut and plane trees from countries within the EU came into force yesterday and will allow plant health inspectors to target their inspections and to track saplings if there are any suspicions that they are infected with diseases or pests.

Mr Paterson said: “We need to ensure we have a healthy, thriving stock of our native trees and these controls will significantly help us to prevent pests and diseases from getting established in the first place. We have learnt from ash dieback how important it is to be able to act quickly to identify where infected trees may be.

“I want to make sure we can quickly trace and destroy diseased trees regardless of where they come from as part of our effort to better protect our forests and woodlands.”

Trees imported from the EU will now face similar regulations as those imported from outside Europe. It means those bringing trees into the country will have to tell the UK’s plant health authorities the species, where they are from and where they are going.

The regulations aim to allow inspectors to judge the level of risk and whether testing is needed.

Chief plant health officer Martin Ward said: “This will also improve our evidence base on the amount of imports of these trees and our understanding of the levels of risk involved, with a view to preventing future threats to our trees from pests and diseases.”

The new controls are part of a series of measures being introduced following the discovery of ash dieback in the UK, a disease which is widespread in parts of Europe. It comes ahead of the publication of the Plant Health Task Force report, which is due in the spring.

Chaired by Defra’s chief scientific adviser Ian Boyd, the group’s interim report recommended setting up a ‘risk register’ for tree health and putting an expert system in place to provide speedy information on tree and plant health biosecurity.

The new regulations involve voluntary notification system and impose the minimum additional obligation which equates from an estimated one hour per year for a small business to between five and eight hours per year for a large tree importer, Defra said.

 
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