Plans to save ash trees

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Wildlife experts have welcomed plans by the government to tackle a disease that threatens to decimate thousands of ash trees.

The fungal disease – chalara – has been identified in 115 sites nationally including one in Lancashire, just a few miles north of Greater Manchester. But with ash forming nearly a third of all trees in the north west, there are fears the disease could cause mass devastation.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson has launched a strategy to tackle the disease.

Tim Mitcham, head of conservation for the Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust, said: “The impact could be devastating, particularly for our unique upland ash woods and the range of flora and fauna they support.

“The long-term objective must be to promote genetic resistance to this disease so that ash woodlands can naturally regenerate over time. We need further clarity on how best to manage our ash woodlands to give them the best chance to adapt and survive.”

Chalara, which has spread across Europe from Poland, was first confirmed in England in February.