Alan Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food
The economic and environmental resilience of our forests and woodlands and their associated industries are very closely linked. Our trees, woods, forests, hedgerows and landscapes are a vital national asset providing multiple economic, social and environmental benefits but they are currently being threatened by several damaging tree diseases.
Chalara fraxinea, is a fungal pathogen which causes dieback of ash trees. Welsh Government officials, working with other Devolved Administrations and Defra have developed a new Chalara Management Plan for Wales. The Management Plan has been guided by Welsh Government’s overall policy on forestry which is based around a clear hierarchy of priorities set out in the Wales Woodland Strategy.
In the short term the proposals contained in the Management Plan advocate proportionate, cost-effective action to be taken to reduce the spread of Chalara and to support land owners and woodlands managers, nurseries and others to mitigate the impacts of the disease. In the long term it advocates the production and establishment of more resistant populations of ash trees and promotes the need for adaptable woodlands so that they continue to provide a wide range of benefits and services.
The disease cannot realistically be eradicated, so increasing emphasis needs to be placed on adapting and building our economic and environmental resilience to it. The full impact of Chalara will not be seen for at least a decade as infected trees will continue to survive for a number of years but evidence from other European countries has already shown the impact that this disease can have. The Welsh Government will continue to work with nurseries, land owners, environmental and other groups to develop a more strategic approach to understand the economic, social and environmental impacts of the disease, secure long-term resilience of woodlands and other trees and the supply chains that support them.
A copy of the Management Plan can be found at the Welsh Government’s website.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.