Ash disease control plan stalls as Government ploughs billions into built infrastructure 06/12/12
Having escalated the ash crisis to a national emergency, the Government's Autumn Statement completely missed the opportunity to follow through with the modest sums needed to ensure DEFRA is properly resourced and this crisis will not be repeated. Instead, the Chancellor announced that billions of pounds will be ploughed into built infrastructure with tax breaks given for shale gas.
DEFRA’s recognition in the Chalara Control Plan of the value of the ObservaTREE project1 is welcome as is its commitment to make some additional funding available to accelerate this work. However, this is no substitute for the long term core funding needed, which DEFRA is clearly struggling to make the case for with the Treasury.
Woodland Trust Chief Executive Sue Holden said:
"There is a distinct lack of political interest in supporting the UK's natural infrastructure despite the Government's own figures valuing the benefits of our woods and trees at around £1.2bn a year2. It has been forced to focus its attention on ash dieback and it is clear the Government is playing scientific catch up, completely unprepared for the crisis our ash trees are now facing. Given the slow progress we are witnessing on ash, what hope does that offer in terms of the increasing range of pests and diseases threatening our woods and trees?
"Our natural infrastructure is suffering from chronic underfunding and is also at increasing risk from development. Government as a whole simply cannot afford to ignore the benefits our trees and woods deliver. The consequences of doing so could be catastrophic, not only for the environment but for the UK economy too."
The Trust is reassured by the interim conclusions of Professor Ian Boyd’s task force on the wider action needed to tackle tree disease, which was also published today. However there are no guarantees yet of the resources and commitment to see these through.
Notes to Editors:
The Government's Chalara Control Plan is available here:
1. The Woodland Trust has committed to a 3-point plan to tackle tree disease in the UK, encompassing the acceleration of a citizen science project (ObservaTREE), a nursery network, and hosting a major conference. Plans for all three points are well underway. More detail can be found here: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/treedisease
2. From the Interim Chalara Control Plan, December 2012
'Woodlands and trees generally provide a range of ecosystem services valuable to prosperity and societal wellbeing such as recreation, landscape, carbon sequestration, air pollution absorption and biodiversity. These are partially estimated at around £1.2bn p.a, [CR medium] and a first approximation of the ash contribution to this estimate is £75-120m p.a. [CR low]. This estimate excludes important biodiversity, cultural, heritage and symbolic “non-use” values associated with trees generally which cannot be quantified but should be integrated. (Source – based on Forestry Commission 2003 research, Defra estimates)'
The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity championing native woods and trees. It has more than 500,000 members and supporters and its three key aims are: i) to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees ii) to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future iii) to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). Access to all Woodland Trust sites is free.