UPDATE: Ban on ash tree imports

IMPORTATION of ash trees has been banned with immediate effect to combat the threat of the tree disease, environment secretary Owen Paterson announced today.

The disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, leads to leaf loss and has already affected trees in England and Scotland, and killed trees in parts of mainland Europe. A rapid eight week consultation was launched which has shown that there is strong support for an import ban.

The ban is being put in place before the main planting season gets underway in late November. Movement restrictions will also be imposed, so that trees from infected areas will not be able to be moved to other locations within the UK.

Announcing his decision on a visit to Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, Mr Paterson said: “This is a very serious disease that demands action to stop its spread. I have ordered both an import ban and movement restrictions on trees from infected areas. This comes into force immediately.

“Work is already underway to tackle the disease. Plant Health Authorities have been monitoring trees in infected areas to ensure early detection and trade bodies have been encouraging their members to impose voluntary import bans. By working together we can protect our native trees from this devastating disease.”

The Plant Health Authorities will remain on high alert across the country and will continue to look for signs of Chalara, ensuring infected trees are destroyed.

Suspected cases of the disease should be reported to the Forestry Commission so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent the disease from spreading.

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The legislation has been passed following a Fera led consultation based on the Pest Risk Assessment carried out by Forest Research on managing the threat to the UK’s ash trees.