South Lakes MP Tim Farron has welcomed the announcement of a Government action plan to combat the deadly Ash Dieback fungus Chalara, but lamented the fact that decisive action was not taken sooner to tackle the disease.
The recent announcement from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs outlined the government's strategy for dealing with Ash Dieback, which Environment Secretary Owen Paterson admits is now "impossible to eradicate" from Britain's woodland. DEFRA's strategy is aimed at slowing the spread of the disease, while the government explores options to develop resistance to it in the native UK ash tree population.
While all newly-planted diseased trees and diseased trees in nurseries will be traced and destroyed, mature trees will not currently be removed, as they are valuable to wildlife, take longer to die and can help DEFRA learn more about genetic strains that might be resistant to the disease. Seeking a genetic strain which is resistant to Chalara is key to the government's strategy to saving Britain's native ash population.
A ban on foreign imports of ash trees remains in place, but Mr Farron said reports that the government had been advised to introduce this as early as 2009 were worrying and that he was upset it had taken so long for DEFRA to respond to the crisis, which has devastated the ash populations of other European countries. The government is now facing a number of compensation claims from ash growers over its slow response to the spread of the disease.
Commenting Tim said: "While I'm pleased to see the Government produce a comprehensive action plan to deal with this disease, I'm extremely concerned that it has come far too late for many growers on the UK.
"Ash Dieback is now here to stay and it is a great shame that the government did not move sooner, when the information was first available to ban imports and introduce a plan to tackle this disease and protect British trees and forests."
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