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ReLeaf Program in full swing as Winnipeg crews continue to battle elm bark beetle

A local non-profit says Winnipeggers are buying up its trees in record numbers, as the city gets set to continue treating for elm bark beetle, the carrier of Dutch Elm Disease. Getty Images

The City of Winnipeg says crews will continue treating for elm bark beetle, the carriers of Dutch Elm Disease, next week.

Weather permitting, they’ll be visiting a large area of south Winnipeg including St. Vital and St. Norbert, as well as Crescentwood and Wellington Crescent.

Read more: ReLeaf tree planting program kicks off as Winnipeg foresters prepare for busy summer

“That’s where (city foresters) noticed a high population of the elm trees that are starting to succumb to Dutch Elm Disease,” says Ken Nawolsky, superintendent of Insect Control for the city.

“So if we get out there and treat some of the trees there, that could hopefully slow the spread of Dutch Elm Disease.”

Nawolsky explains spraying for the beetle and removing afflicted trees are the primary tools in their toolbox for managing Dutch Elm Disease, which continues to ravage the city’s canopy.

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“Speaking to our city urban forester yesterday, the total count this year is approximately 7,800 trees. So that’s slightly less than previous years, but is still an amount that is significant that need to be removed coming up shortly,” Nawolsky says, adding crews will begin removing marked trees within the next few weeks.

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ReLeaf Program Going Strong

Meanwhile, it seems Winnipeggers are eager to continue bolstering the city’s struggling tree canopy, according to Trees Winnipeg.

Program director Martine Balcaen says they’re over halfway sold out of this season’s stock for the bi-annual ReLeaf Program, which offers subsidized seedlings suitable for Winnipeg’s soil and climate, along with instructions, mulch and other resources.

“The city is of course backed up in their tree-planting timeline, so if you’re waiting for your boulevard tree to be replaced it might be a few years, but you can always plant your own tree on your own yard,” Balcaen says.

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Due to a surge in demand over the past few years, Trees Winnipeg increased the number the packages it’s offering, totaling some 1,500 trees this fall, even after doubling supply in the spring.

Read more: Fall begins in Winnipeg with National Tree Day events

“We lose a lot of trees every year to Dutch Elm Disease and emerald ash borer and just plain old age and drought and all the rough conditions that we’ve been having,” Balcaen says.

“It’s really important for people to plant their own trees and help maintain the urban canopy that Winnipeg is so well-known for.”

Balcaen says tree-planting in Winnipeg has been growing exponentially in recent years, with people saying they appreciate the affordability and diversity it offers.

“(There’s) less in utility costs because of the shade that trees provide, so you’ll spend less on air conditioning, it provides space for wildlife and birds and that interests a lot of people, and it’s physically calming,” Balcaen says.

“I can tell you that trees that have very bright fall colours are always the most popular; everyone wants a red fall tree. But at Trees Winnipeg, we always stick to our story, which is that diversity is most important.

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“So the best tree to plant … should be the tree that is not on your block already.”

Twelve different types of trees are available until Wednesday, Sept. 29.

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