MP backs call for action on ash trees

By Gary Smee Friday 09 November 2012 Updated: 12/11 09:40

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Buy photos » People are being urged to look out for symptoms of ash dieback. (s)

WEST WORCESTERSHIRE MP Harriett Baldwin has joined two conservation charities in their calls for the public to help prevent the spread of a devastating tree disease.

She has asked people to look out for signs of fungus on ash trees and send mobile phone snaps to the Forestry Commission.

Ash dieback disease has taken hold in northern Europe but cases are starting to be discovered across the UK. The disease is spread by wind-borne spores produced between June and September and causes ash trees to die.

The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust (WWT) and Butterfly Conservation have also issued warnings this week and said it will not only impact the landscape but would be devastating for the area’s wildlife, including more than 30 species of butterfly and moth which are dependent on ash trees in some way.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has written to Mrs Baldwin briefing her on the measures the Government is taking to prevent the disease from spreading, including a ban on moving ash saplings.

He is due to speak at the West Worcestershire Conservative Association annual dinner at Worcestershire County Cricket Club on November 23.

Mrs Baldwin said they needed the public’s help to make sure county woodlands were not affected.

“Our local woodlands are not at immediate risk but it would be a great help if people looked out for ash trees that don’t look in good condition,” she said.

“The Forestry Commission has a great website to help you identify signs of the disease and there is an e-mail address for sending in evidence.”

David Dench, Head of Conservation for WWT, said: “As each day passes it seems inevitable that this disease will reach Worcestershire so we’re asking the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspected cases to the Forestry Commission immediately.”

The fungus infects 60 to 90 per cent of the trees in its path, causing leaf loss, bark lesions and crown dieback. Young ash trees are killed very rapidly by the disease.

Older trees often resist the disease for longer periods but succumb with prolonged exposure.

The Forestry Commission has a dedicated area of its website aimed at helping people to spot and prevent the spread of the disease including bio-security measures such as rinsing bikes and washing outer clothing layers.

The site at www.forestry.gov.uk also shows videos on how to spot the disease and where to send evidence of diseased trees.

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