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Government restricts imports of ash trees to tackle disease

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Chalara dieback of ash - withering of young leaves caused by Chalara fraxinea fungus

Issued jointly with Fera

Restrictions on the importation of ash trees into Great Britain to combat chalara dieback of ash are being imposed with immediate effect, Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary in the UK Government, announced today (Monday 29 October 2012).

The disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea (C. Fraxinea), leads to leaf loss and tree death. It has already affected trees in England and Scotland, and killed trees in parts of mainland Europe. A consultation which ended last Friday showed strong support for import restrictions and action to prevent the disease spreading.

Movement restrictions within Great Britain will also be imposed, so that ash trees, plants and seeds may not be moved to other places in Great Britain.

The restrictions are being put in place before the main tree planting season gets under way in late November. Dr John Morgan, Head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant health Service, welcomed the move, saying,

“This is a sensible precaution to protect Britain from further introductions and internal spread of the disease while we assess the overall situation.

“We and our colleagues in the Food & Environment Agency (Fera) and the Scottish Government plant health team have stepped up our efforts to tackle this disease. For example, we have redeployed all our woodland officer staff in East Anglia to survey the region for signs of infection after infected trees in established woodland were found there.

“I would once again urge woodland managers and other tree professionals to familiarise themselves with the symptoms illustrated on our website, inspect their ash trees frequently for signs of ill health, and report any suspicious cases to us.

“I am encouraged that although awareness of Chalara dieback has been high among these groups, we have received very few reports of ill health in ash trees in the wider natural environment.”

The proposed legislation will prohibit:

  • all imports of ash plants, trees and seeds into Great Britain except from officially designated pest-free areas (areas declared free of C. fraxinea) until further notice. No such areas have been designated to date;
  • all movements of ash plants, trees and seeds within Great Britain until further notice (in the absence of officially designated pest-free areas in Great Britain);
  • movement within Great Britain of logs and firewood from sites with confirmed C. fraxinea infection which have been served with a Statutory Plant Health Notice;

The following activities are permitted to continue:

  • importation from European Union countries of logs, woodchips and firewood, which pose a very low risk of disease transmission, especially when they are kiln dried. In the unlikely event that this material is found to contain infection, action such as destruction will be ordered;
  • movements within Great Britain of sawn ash timber, which poses a very low risk of disease transmission; and
  • importation of sawn ash timber from certain countries under existing regulations against the forestry pest emerald ash borer, provided such material originates from a pest-free area for emerald ash borer. These regulations require the material to be accompanied by official phytosanitary (plant health) certificates declaring that the material either originated in areas known to be free of EAB, or that the wood is bark-free (which addresses the Chalara risk as well) before entering Great Britain.

Further information, including a pictorial guide to symptoms and videos about the disease, is available at

Detailed advice on the legislation is available from the Plant Health Service, Forestry Commission, Silvan House, 231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AT; email:; tel. 0131 314 6414.

A press release including Mr Paterson's comments on the legislation is available on the Defra website.

Notes to Editor:

  1. The Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government have both passed similar legislation.
  2. The consultation document which informed the decision to legislate can be found on the Fera website at .
  3. In October 2011 the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan was published to help tackle the threats of pests and diseases and ensure that the UK’s defences against them are as robust as possible. The Plan can be found at .
  4. Government departments and agencies from across the UK, working with partners in the private and third sectors, have drawn up a Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan to ensure that the UK's defences against tree and plant pests and diseases are as robust as possible.
  5. Suspected cases of Chalara dieback should be reported to one of the following:
    • Forest Research Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service -
    tel: 01420 23000; email:;
    • Forestry Commission Plant Health Service - tel: 0131 314 6414; email:;
    • Fera Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate - tel: 01904 465625; email:

Media contact – Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500