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Protecting our Trees

February 23, 2018

We are all worried about the future of our trees — I believe that our deteriorating canopy is one of the most pressing issues we are facing as a city. In response, I have taken action both at the ward level and city-wide to help protect our tree canopy for years to come.

I was successful in getting a record investment of $7.1 million in the Urban Forest Enhancement & Reforestation Capital Programs, of which $4.6 million is to protect our elm trees from the spread of Dutch elm disease (DED) as our community of River Heights-Fort Garry is at the forefront of the battle for our trees.   

As well, I brought forward a motion and was supported by committee members to develop a comprehensive urban forestry plan that addresses DED, emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle, pruning, replanting and general maintenance of our trees. This overall plan is critical to ensuring that priorities are established, benchmarks for success are established and funding is determined to make sure that our trees are able to thrive.

On Feb. 5, as a member of the protection, community services and parks committee, I was proud to vote to approve a $1.3 million one-year plan to specifically combat the invasion of the EAB beetle.

Despite only being detected recently in Winnipeg, EAB is an invasive pest introduced into North America from China. It feeds on and kills ash trees whether they are healthy or stressed. It is the larval stage of the beetle that kills the tree. The larvae feed on the tissue underneath the bark. The larval feeding girdles the tree, cutting off the flow of nutrients and water causing the tree to die. Once detected, it cannot be eradicated.

In addition to the city’s initiatives, I have allocated $50,000 in local funds for the Centre Median Reforestation project.  

The urban forestry branch has already planted 15 trees along the centre median Corydon Avenue between Kenaston and Cambridge Boulevard in Phase 1 to re-establish tree canopy along the regional routes in River Heights. Phase 2 will see further plantings (approximately 50 trees) along the Corydon and Grant centre medians to infill suitable locations where trees have been removed and where others can be added.

The Taylor widening and Waverley Underpass project also include funds for the planting of additional trees to add and replace any that are lost.

This spring, we will be hosting a town hall to learn and share ideas — all with the goal of forming a tree working group. The new group will be comprised of residents that would learn about the issues, review recommendations and provide suggestions directly to me on how to deal with this challenging issue right outside our doors. I have already dedicated $50,000 this year to fund projects and ideas determined by this group.

Trees are a defining element of much of the River Heights-Fort Garry Ward, are incredibly important for the environment and we need to work together to make sure they are here for today and for tomorrow.

Please contact me at 204-986-5236 or at jorlikow@winnipeg.ca if you are interested in participating in town hall and/or the tree working group.

This article appeared in the Sou'wester on Feb. 12, 2018. Read it online here