A Winnipeg not-for-profit working to see a million new trees planted in the city over the next two decades is doubling its efforts to get tree seedlings into the hands of budding back-yard arborists this year.
Tree Winnipeg’s ReLeaf program has been providing hundreds of trees for Winnipeggers to plant every spring for the last five years, but the group is expanding the program into the fall this year with the hopes of making the push to plant a biannual effort.
“We’ve seen an increase in the demand for trees,” explained Lisa Jones, program director with Trees Winnipeg, who tells Global News the program saw 530 trees planted in the spring, and just shy of 1,900 trees go into the ground since 2017.
“We’re hoping that having affordable and accessible trees will increase the amount that people are replanting and replenishing the canopy.”
And Winnipeg’s canopy — made up of an estimated 3.1 million trees, including 300,000 in parks and on boulevards — is in need of some help.
As many as 30,000 city-owned trees were wiped out in last October’s early-season snow storm, according to estimates from the city.
But the city’s trees had already been taking a beating from multiple fronts.
As the storm rolled through city, foresters were already busy battling the devastating effects of invasive pests like the Emerald Ash Borer and Cottony Ash Psyllid, and waging the years-long war against Dutch Elm Disease.
City officials have said crews are removing roughly 1,200 damaged ash trees a year due to the invasive species and the city expects all of Winnipeg’s 350,000 ash trees — 100,000 of which are located in public parks and on boulevards — will eventually die due to the beetle over the next 10-20 years.
Dutch Elm, which the city has been working to manage since the 1970s, saw the removal of some 9,500 trees over the last year alone, the city says.
The ReLeaf program has 190 tree seedlings available this fall, and each package — which include a bag of mulch, rabbit guards and other resources — and come at a subsidized cost of $55.
While Trees Winnipeg normally holds a training session to help those who pick up the trees learn how to properly plant and care for them, this year the oranization produced an online training video instead due to COVID-19.
The tree seedlings available this fall include Pagoda Dogwood, Amur Cherry Ming, Hackberry and Basswood, which Jones said have been chosen in an effort to help diversify the the city’s tree population — something that’s needed to protect against the species-specific threats the canopy faces.
“Planting a diverse selection of tree species is key when invasive insects and pests … come through, she explained.
“There’s more variety and you don’t see those big, large culls of damaged trees.”
The program is also part of Tree Winnipeg’s effort to help the city reach Mayor Bowman’s One Million Tree Challenge, a bid launched in September to see one million trees planted inside city limits as Winnipeg grows in population towards one million people.
All trees purchased through the program will be counted and registered towards the challenge, Jones said.
The tree are available to residential and commercial property owners in and around Winnipeg and the deadline for making an order is Sept. 11.
For more information and to order a tree package go to Tree Winnipeg’s website.