Confor welcomes Tree Health Strategy

25 May 2018

Proposals to consult industry on new quarantine arrangements for high-risk plants are among the measures set out in a new Government’s plan to protect the UK’s trees. 

Confor has welcomed The Tree Health Resilience Strategy, the first major publication to come out of the 25-Year Environment Plan, whichsets out a new proactive approach to tree health. 

A new industry-wide Plant Health Alliance to strengthen biosecurity practices has been established. The Alliance brings together the country’s leading nurseries, retailers, tree suppliers, landscapers, foresters, the Royal Horticultural Society and Defra to ensure more effective and targeted action in response to threats such as Xylella and Emerald Ash Borer.  

Caroline Harrison, Confor’s England Manager, said: “This strategy chimes with our publication in January of Plant Health and Brexit, which called for imports of high-risk plants and firewood to end within five years to safeguard the health of UK forests. Confor has been part of constructive collaborative discussions about how best to protect our trees from pests and diseases and we welcome this new strategy.” 

Launching the strategy, Secretary of State Michael Gove said: ‘’The UK has a global reputation for setting the high standards for biosecurity of plants and trees but there is no room for complacency. We must seize every opportunity offered by Brexit to strengthen our biosecurity.” 

“In 10 years’ time I want to be able to say our oaks are thriving, that pests are being kept at bay and that our woodlands and forests are flourishing. Trees benefit our economy, society and wellbeing significantly and this strategy sets out how we will preserve them for generations to come.” 

The Strategy also includes:  

  • Launching the ‘Don’t Risk It’ campaign this summer to raise awareness of the risks of bringing back plant materials from holiday destinations
  • Consulting with industry on contingency plans for key threats to our trees and plants to ensure a swift and effective response should new pests and diseases enter the UK 
  • Strengthening protection against Xylella – maintaining continuous scrutiny of the risk situation and taking measures to maintain the strongest possible controls
  • Building knowledge and awareness of threats to trees to ensure accurate and up to date information
  • Working in partnership with the sector to drive up biosecurity standards through assurance and safe sourcing
  • Exploring strengthening of public procurement strategies to specify safe sourcing,and
  • Reviewing passenger baggage allowance for regulated plant material to assess whether it should be discontinued.    

Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission said: “Publishing this strategy is a critical milestone in our ongoing work to safeguard England’s trees. It provides clear direction on how we can work collaboratively across sectors, to combat tree pests and diseases, to protect our beloved forests and woodlands for not only our current generation but for the future.”