Sheffield nature reserve vows to save the endangered elm tree

A planting scheme to help protect the endangered elm tree has started in Sheffield today, after being proposed by a local elm enthusiast.

The Greno Woods nature reserve in North Sheffield, covering 169 hectares, is the site where the new initiative has been launched to protect trees from Dutch elm disease, which has killed over 60 million trees in the UK.

Paul Selby, 36, started the campaign after his protests against the felling of the elm tree were ignored by Sheffield City Council.

Mr Selby is a member of the Save Nether Edge Trees campaign group on Facebook, whose mission is to save as many of Sheffield’s endangered elm trees as possible, and who raised over £700 to support planting efforts in just two weeks.

‘‘It is now 53 weeks since the council agreed to talk to me or anyone else in the community about working collaboratively to save this tree,” said Mr Selby.

‘‘They know the strong feelings from local residents about this rare and important tree. But instead of logically discussing the evidence-based options, they have instead chosen confrontation.’’

Greno Woods will be used as an experimental area when monitoring which trees are most fruitful in the conditions, and are likely to support the existence of elm trees.

Eight varieties of Dutch elm disease-resistant trees are being planted in the woods after the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust teamed up with Mr Selby.

Dr David Herling, the national lead on the project, has joined the project having spent the last 40 years working to understand Dutch Elm Disease.

”There is zero challenge at all with the project. Dr David Herling has already tested them and these species have all been inoculated. They should be fully resistant.

”I doubt the Council will help. They are not very evidence based. They have refused to use the right sub-species, and have refused to engage with the experts,” said Mr Selby.

Dutch elm disease was first discovered by Dutch scientists in the early 20th century, although the disease is believed to have originated in Asia.

The disease, which has affected North America, New Zealand and other parts of Europe, spreads from elm bark beetles.

Roy Mosley, Head of Conservation and Land Management for the Trust, said: ‘‘This is a really exciting project to be involved with.

“Elms are an important part of our natural heritage, so we’re really happy to be able to support an initiative to bring resistant elms back by providing a planting site and a commitment to look after them.’’