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Fight against Dutch elm disease reaching critical point in Winnipeg

Crews chopping down elm tree infected with Dutch Elm Disease.
Crews chopping down elm tree infected with Dutch Elm Disease. Matt Carty / Global News

Winnipeg’s Urban Forestry Branch is having a tough time keeping up in their fight against dutch elm disease that has infected thousands of trees across the city.

Dutch elm disease is a fungal disease that is spread by bark beetles, according to Tree Canada and crews are now being forced to cut down a significant portion of them in Winnipeg.

But that task is proving to be a bit daunting.

“We are not keeping up and that’s one of the big problems,” said Martha Barwinsky, the city’s forester. “We have about 1,400 trees remaining from last year and we have about 100 remaining trees from the 2015 season as well.”

Barwinsky said another concern is the amount of trees infected each year, which continues to be steady.

“We are losing on average, anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 trees a year over the past five years,” she said. “It’s a crazy amount of trees.”

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Barwinsky said more resources will be focused on cutting down infected elm trees this year, but that means other initiatives will have to take a backseat.

“We will be planting fewer trees this year and our pruning cycle will also take a hit,” she said and mentioned the goal is to get caught up and continue to keep up.

This comes as emerald ash borer is on Winnipeg’s doorstep. Borwinsky said it has already been found in Thunder Bay and Minnesota, but they have not yet found it in Winnipeg.

“Emerald ash borer will be worse than Dutch elm disease,” she said. “Dutch elm disease we know we can manage and we can retain a good portion of the elm population. Emerald ash borer kills all ash trees.”

Borwinsky said it’s devastating to cut down all these trees.

“It has a significant impact in the neighbourhood and in particular house.”

LISTEN: Global News reporter Matt Carty speaks with Winnipeg’s Urban Forestry Branch about Dutch elm disease