Environment Minister sets out agenda at Scotland’s Chalara summit

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13 NOVEMBER 2012NEWS RELEASE No: 15732

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Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, today set out the aims of a Chalara control strategy for Scotland at a summit meeting with representatives from the country’s leading environment, land management and forestry agencies.

As a result of today’s meeting it was agreed to:

• Provide advice on management of mature infected ash trees
• Identify mature ash that are resistant to the disease and could be used to propagate and develop new strains of ash to restock Scottish woodlands.
• Investigate woodland management and forestry techniques that could help slow down the spread of the disease and lessen its impact.
• Identify isolated locations around Scotland that are protected from windborne spread of spores and use them as a refuge for ash in Scotland.
• Develop a feasible, practical, achievable and affordable approach to dealing with infected young ash on newly planted sites
• Continue to survey in towns, cities and in the countryside surrounding infected sites.

Mr Wheelhouse said:

“I would like to thank all of those who took part in today’s meeting on how we take forward efforts to tackle Chalara and mitigate its impact on Scotland’s landscape and on the horticulture, arboriculture and forestry sectors.

“A number of actions have already been identified and there were many useful and positive contributions from the floor that will certainly be looked at more closely as we co-ordinate with the UK government effort and develop a Control Strategy for the end of November.

“As a result of today’s meeting we will look at options for new planting sites, including immediate action to remove infected young plants. We will continue to monitor the situation and assess the scope and range of the disease and decide on an appropriate course of action.

“Forestry Commission Scotland has acted swiftly to tackle this disease since it began to emerge in Scotland. The next phase of our response will involve working closely with all of the land managers in Scotland – and the public – to monitor the disease, report it wherever it is found and act appropriately to deal with it while seeking to identify mature trees that are resistant to the disease.”

With the disease now present in the wider environment, eradication – which would involve the wholesale destruction of mature ash trees and woodlands and widespread damage to the wider ecosystem - is not a realistic option.

Mature infected ash can survive for ten or twenty years, and some trees may have a genetic resistance to the disease – a resistance that could be propagated in new strains of Chalara-resistant ash that can be used to help restock Scottish woodlands.

However there is no need to take immediate remedial action because the Chalara infection is only transmitted in the summer months. Individuals can continue to enjoy the countryside but they can greatly assist efforts to slow the spread of the disease if they take simple precautions and ensure they do not carry leaves or other plant matter on their boots or equipment.

The ongoing search for the disease and further work to slow its spread and reduce its impact will involve working in partnership with stakeholders. Those represented at today’s meeting included Confor; Woodland Trust Scotland; National Farmers Union Scotland; RSPB Scotland; Ramblers Association and Scottish Land and Estates.

The disease has a widely dispersed range across the country and has been found in several new planting sites as well as in mature trees at two sites. 

For more information on Chalara, how to spot symptoms and who to report concerns to, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara

Supporting Quotes:

Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland said:

“Over the coming weeks and months it’s important that all stakeholders continue to discuss the situation and work together to agree the best way forward and make sure we get the best result for our native ash trees.

“It’s good that the Scottish Government is taking Chalara ash dieback seriously, and we’re supportive of the measures announced so far. We need to remember that it’s just one of many pests and diseases affecting our native trees and woods.”

Confor’s chief executive, Stuart Goodall, said:

“We welcomed this summit to ensure the best information was made available to all stakeholders and to inform the most appropriate action to be taken.  It is vital that government works with the private sector in this way.”

Confor’s Scotland manager, Jamie Farquhar, added:

“I am hugely impressed by, and would like to thank, the number of Confor members who have volunteered to help survey for Chalara in a joint effort. Forestry Commission Scotland did great work with its immediate broad-brush survey, but there will be a lot more work needed in the coming months to identify the extent of the disease in Scotland, and I look forward to working with Scottish Government and the whole industry to carry out Confor's Action Plan on this and wider tree pests and diseases.”

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland said:

“RSPB Scotland manages more than 70,000 hectares of land in Scotland for the benefit of birds and other wildlife.

“Control measures for ash dieback must therefore be sensitive to the needs of these species. This means saving old ash trees that are wildlife havens, while removing recently planted ash that is infected with the fungus, and timing any tree felling and removal carefully to minimise disturbance to breeding wildlife.”

Notes to Editors
1) Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland.

2) For news, events and recreation information log on to www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests. For Twitter: www.twitter.com/fcscotland.

3) Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland

4) The list of 14 sites now confirmed in Scotland are as follows:

Private nursery       North East
New Planting          Near Glendevon  (new)
New Planting          Near Blairgowrie
New Planting          Near Carrbridge
New Planting          Near Castle Douglas (FCS)
New Planting          Near Cowdenbeath (new)
New Planting          Near East Kilbride
New Planting          Near Kilmacolm (FCS)
New Planting          Near Leadhills
New Planting          Near Lesmahagow (FCS)
New Planting          Near Montrose
New Planting          Near Scone
Wider Environment     Near Eyemouth
Wider Environment     Near Kinghorn (new)

e-mail: Paul.munro@forestry.gsi.gov.uk