Tom urges ‘more action’ from DEFRA ministers as forestry commission reveal wider extent of ash fungus disease

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (8th November 2012) renewed his call for Government environment ministers ‘to show some real action in developing ways to combat fungal disease hitting Ash trees’ as it was confirmed that the Ash tree virus had been found in Guisborough Forest.

Tom said:
“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.

“This is important locally, as we speak it has been confirmed that the fungus has been found in my constituency at Guisborough forest threatening the Forestry Commission’s work 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.

“It seems that the only action being taken by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to ban Ash tree plant imports – which is like bolting the stable doors after the horses have bolted – and taking the axe on a massive scale to Ash plantations across the nation, which – to me – is simply environmental degradation under a cloak of disease management.

“But there are alternatives and I have called for them to be used. This call has been vindicated. I now hear that scientists believe they might have found a cure for Ash dieback. The ash dieback treatment has been developed by Imperial College and Natural Ecology Mitigation, who have offered the treatment to the Government, but who are frustrated by being told it is “in a queue” for trials by the Forestry Commission, with no date being set for these trials.

“Imperial College scientists say that – if approved – the anti-fungal treatment could be sprayed over large areas from a plane. Put simply, time is of the essence. Ministers should be looking at how we can fast-track this as a matter of utter urgency

“The present approach – felling trees – is simply a scorched earth approach. It the hallmark of an incompetent government and incompetent ministers.”

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