Urgent call for clarity

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 amongst the species.
The RFS is seeking clarification on how movement restrictions will be applied within the UK to existing ash stock intended for planting this winter, and which may have already been granted plant passports.
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 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% of all ash. The recent announcement of findings in native trees in East Anglia – in addition to imported trees – suggest 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. 80 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 Food and Environment Research Agency has aslos produced You Tube clip giving details about the history of the disease.

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