Following a DEFRA summit on the current dieback of ash trees triggered by the Chalara fraxinea fungus, Scottish Land & Estates, which represents over 2,500 landowners across Scotland, has echoed calls by the CLA in England and Wales, for decision makers to recognise those in the private forestry sector as prime early detectors of tree pests and diseases. As custodians of much of the UK’s forestry, private landowners stand at the front line of the fight against tree diseases and can help inform those overseeing the national response of the best course of action to follow.
Paul Wakefield, Director of Communications and Operations at Scottish Land & Estates, who attended the summit on Wednesday, said:
“Following previous tree disease outbreaks such as Dutch elm disease, Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, admitted at the summit that the UK Government had learned the hard way that a panicked reaction leading to knee-jerk strategies such as mass felling was not the most effective remedy - nor the most cost effective. Scottish Land & Estates is working very closely with the range of organisations involved in the current ash disease fight including the UK Government, DEFRA, the CLA, the Forestry Commission and Forestry Commission Scotland, to ensure the voice of landowner foresters is heard and heeded. If finding a solution to the issue is the government’s priority, it is essential that as much information as possible is disseminated as quickly as possible to the public.
“Hands-on foresters in the private sector have a great deal of expertise and relevant knowledge - it was very encouraging to see how DEFRA managed to convene a meeting of experts in such a short space of time, to establish the best way forward. I am pleased DEFRA has acknowledged a need for a change in the reaction to rapid spreading tree diseases within both government and the Forestry Commission and we will be doing all that we can to assist.”
Scottish Land & Estates will be closely monitoring the outcome of next week’s COBRA crisis meeting to discuss the next steps in management of the outbreak. We have also been invited by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, to join him in a Scottish Chalara summit next week.