Commenting on the Government’s action plan for tackling ash dieback Dr Simon Pryor, Director of Natural Environment at the National Trust, said: “This disease poses a major threat to special places throughout the country and is potentially more devastating to the landscape than the loss of Elm in the 1970s.
“We welcome the Government’s action plan, particularly in identifying clear objectives that will help reduce the spread of the disease.
“We agree with their immediate commitment to destroy infected young plants and to reduce the rate of spread. But we are surprised that the Government is saying that it will not be possible to eradicate the disease.
“Given our limited understanding of this disease in this country, we believe we should keep an open mind as to whether it may be possible to eradicate it, or at least contain it within the core area in the east.
“Even if we only delay the spread of the disease this will buy us valuable time to establish the next generation of trees and also investigate other means of increasing resistance of mature trees.
“Although the National Trust relies mainly on natural restocking of the 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) of woodland in our care, we are putting in place a rapid programme of tracing, checking and destroying any infected newly planted stock that may have been brought in.
“We welcome the protection for veteran ash trees as they provide immensely important habitats for a huge range of plants and animals and are an important part of the UK landscape. We are pleased to hear the Government stating that it will not require felling of such mature trees at this stage.
“As part of this process we will help identify signs of resistance in ash trees and welcome the opportunity to work with scientists in identifying resistance that may be possible to build up in the UK stock.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to further research, but it is vital that funding for these new actions is not simply diverted from existing research on plant health.
“This is a major new national disaster for our countryside and it will require new resources to tackle it effectively.”
For more information, images, or to request interviews with Dr Simon Pryor, Director of Natural Environment or Ian Wright, Plant Health Specialist please contact Jeannette Heard in the National Trust press office on 01793 817706 or 07884 473396 or email firstname.lastname@example.org