Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (31st October 2012) urged Government environment ministers ‘not to be asleep at their desks’ as the Forestry Commission revealed that the real extent of the fungal infestation – which is deadly for younger Ash trees – was spread much wider than Ministers maintained.
“This disease threatens the entire future of the UK Ash tree species. Ashes are one of our traditional trees and make up nearly a third of our entire tree cover and hedgerows. It seems that the only action being taken by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to ban Ash tree plant imports – tantamount to bolting the stable doors after the horses have bolted – and taking the axe on a massive scale to Ash plantations across the nation, which looks more like environmental degradation than disease management.
“This is important locally, as we speak the Forestry Commission are in full swing on a programme at Guisborough Forest to replace spruce and fir trees with native tree species, including Ash. After fighting to save this forest from possible sell-off by this government, I don’t want it to fall to the axe and the chainsaw.
“They first knew of this outbreak in February but only now are acting. We need to mobilise the nation’s scientific expertise, including the natural plant laboratory at Rothampstead to see if they can develop anti-fungal sprays that could kill this disease. A scorched earth approach is just the sign of an incompetent government and incompetent ministers.”