Ash dieback will dramatically change Devon's landscapes

Devon County Council officer tackle Ash dieback infected trees

Devon County Council officer cutting an ash dieback infected tree - Credit: DCC

Over the years I've had the pleasure of visiting a number of countries around the world and one of the things that almost always strikes me is how much more forested they are than England.
 
Obviously trees add  beauty to landscapes but increasingly they are a vital tool in our efforts to combat climate change.
 
The county council is pledged to be net carbon zero by 2030 and we will be planting trees ourselves and encouraging individuals, communities and schools to do likewise.
 
Not only do trees process carbon dioxide and produce oxygen but they support wildlife, reduce flood risk, help cut noise and filter air pollution.
 
But we've got a long way to go. I looked up the comparative statistics for this article and in the UK some 13.2 per cent of our land is covered by woodland. According to the Forestry Commission, just 11 per cent of Devon and Cornwall is wooded.
 
That compares with 36 per cent in the United States, 38 per cent in Canada and 42 per cent in Europe. In the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont well over three quarters of the land is wooded. No wonder the autumn landscapes there are so spectacular.
 
It's not just about getting our numbers up though. We also have the added challenge of ash dieback. It's predicted that this terrible disease could wipe out 90 per cent of our native ash trees.
 
In Devon, ash is the second most common tree outside of woodlands so our landscapes are going to change dramatically and the diverse wildlife that ash trees support will be at risk.
 
In East Devon you may have noticed we've been doing work to remove diseased trees along the A3052. These efforts are replicated around the county.
 
And we are committed to using the 3:2:1 ratio when replanting and we are encouraging landowners to do the same. If you remove one mature tree, plant three saplings as a replacement and if you're removing a semi-mature tree, plant two saplings. Replace a small sapling tree with another sapling.
 
The county council, along with a number of other organisations, is supporting the Saving Devon’s Treescapes campaign and the Devon Wildlife Trust is leading on this.
 
The campaign began in March 2020 and – by 2025 – aims to plant and nurture 250,000 trees outside of woodlands across Devon.
The county council is also supporting the Queen’s Green Canopy project, which you may already have heard of. It’s a unique tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 and it’s inviting people from across the United Kingdom to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”.
 
So you, as an individual, can mark the Jubilee by planting a tree in your garden but we’re also encouraging town and parish councils, schools and community groups and organisations like the Scouts and the Girl Guides to do their bit.
 
We will be launching the scheme in Devon with a special tree planting ceremony at Wynstream Primary School in Exeter next month.
 
The tree planting season really begins in October and we will be backing the project to encourage everyone to play their part in enhancing our environment by planting trees through to the end of the Jubilee year in 2022.
 
The Woodland Trust is also supporting many of these campaigns and I would urge you to have a look at their website, along with the county council’s and Saving Devon’s Treescapes, to see what’s happening in your community and check out whether, as a householder or a landowner, you might qualify for free trees to plant.

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