Protect our Trees

The Government is being urged to take steps to protect Britain’s woodlands, particularly in the light of the outbreak of the ash tree disease Chalara fraxinea, by the European Squirrel Initiative (ESI). 

“Once again Britain’s woodlands are under threat and the Government must take action to protect our native trees not only from disease but also from the damage caused by the invasive alien American Grey Squirrel,” said ESI Chairman George Farr.

In a letter to the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, Mr Farr urged the Government to back up any broadleaf planting with effective nationwide grey squirrel control.

“Ash is a wonderful tree and one of its great advantages is that it is unpalatable to grey squirrels and therefore not damaged by them.  When replacement tree planting takes place we need to be in a position to confidently replant with oak, beech, sweet chestnut, sycamore, birch and others and see them grow, fast, into fine trees.  However unless grey squirrels are properly controlled this will not happen”, said Mr Farr.

“Unless action is taken now to deal with the problem of grey squirrels, the landscape of Britain will change forever and we will no longer see the kind of trees we see today.  Similarly providing money to plant more broadleaf trees is a waste, trees need to be properly managed and in order to do that grey squirrels need to be properly controlled. There is a willingness, indeed a desire, amongst the public to control grey squirrels and now is the time to act”, urged Mr Farr.

Recent surveys conducted by the European Squirrel Initiative show that 68% of the public are in favour of grey squirrel control, and a recent survey by the British Trust for Ornithology revealed a large influx of grey squirrels, with numbers up by a third compared with the same periods in 2009 and 2011.

“We must learn the lessons from the great storm of 1987 whereby trees planted afterwards have been decimated by grey squirrels and will never enjoy their full potential as fine trees.  We must not allow a repeat of that to happen when it comes to replanting ash”, concluded Mr Farr.


Notes to editors

The grey squirrel, Sciurus caroliensis, a native species of North America, was introduced to England from the late 19th century, until 1938 when it became illegal to import or keep the species in captivity.

The European Squirrel Initiative was founded June 2002 by a group of concerned conservationists and foresters. The organisation seeks the restoration of the native Red Squirrel and the protection of the natural environment by removing the impact of the alien Grey Squirrel in Europe.

Its role is to:

Persuade conservation bodies and governments of the absolute necessity of ridding Europe of the Grey Squirrel.Continue to commission research into the impact of the Grey Squirrel on local ecosystems.

Issued on behalf of the European Squirrel Initiative by Kendalls.

For more information, please contact Andrew Kendall, telephone 01394 610022. 


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