The Forestry Commission has been accused of planting 70,000 foreign ash trees – despite warnings the import could endanger Britain’s forests.
Back in 2009, two trade groups called on the government to ban the import of trees to prevent the ash from wilting reaching the UK.
But in 2010/11, the government agency responsible for the country’s forests and forests ordered 70,400 ash trees from overseas nurseries.
Fungi: Ash blight can go undetected for years before it kills the tree. Two industry associations called for a ban on foreign imports as early as 2009. Fungi: Ash blight can go undetected for years before it kills the tree. Back in 2009, two industry associations called for a ban on foreign imports
Since then, infected trees have been found at 22 publicly owned sites she manages. The deadly fungus was first spotted at a nursery in Buckinghamshire earlier this year, but the import and transport of trees was banned until October, and more than 100,000 ash saplings have been destroyed.
Both the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) and the Forest Industry Federation had called on the government to halt imports as early as 2009 to prevent the spread of the disease. In total, the deadly fungus has been confirmed in more than 300 locations across the country and threatens to destroy 80 million ash trees.
Scientists believe the disease has been present in British forests for at least two years and is spread by windblown spores from northern France and Belgium. But it’s also found in import inventories in many places. The Forestry Commission’s infected sites include Thetford Forest in Norfolk, one of the largest lowland forests in England.
Tim Briercliffe of the HTA said the Forest Service was wrong to continue planting imported trees after widespread warnings. He added: “The Forest Service was aware of the problem in 2009 but kept ordering. What the Forest Service did was unreasonable.”
The Forestry Commission, which manages more than 1 million hectares, said the 70,400 trees represented less than 5 percent of the ash trees planted in five years.