FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Looming Tree Ecological Disaster Brings Winnipeggers Together
Winnipeg (November 12, 2019) — Winnipeg’s iconic tree canopy is in crisis due to disease, climate change and chronic under-funding. Every year, Winnipeg loses more trees than are planted – and it promises to get worse unless Winnipeggers all work together to reverse this trend.
Residents Associations, OURS-Winnipeg, and neighbourhood groups have responded to the threat by joining forces to ask the City of Winnipeg to increase the budget for the Urban Forestry Branch to maintain the existing canopy, and plant trees now – for the future of our city.
Last year, in a Parks and Open Space Division 2019 preliminary budget presentation, the Urban Forestry Branch said that it did not have the resources for adequate tree disease management and pruning. Yet, the City of Winnipeg did not approve Urban Forestry’s request for $11.6 million. They only approved $4 million, less than half of what they need to carry out their mandate — a $7.61 million shortfall. As a result, the chronic underfunding that contributes to tree canopy loss continued.
Ronald Mazur, spokesperson for OURS-Winnipeg, explained the need to act at a recent meeting of concerned citizens. “October’s unprecedented storm displayed the challenges extreme weather can place on the urban forest and the need for its stable funding and care.” The group has launched the “Saveourcanopy.com” online letter campaign for all Winnipeggers to participate in asking the City to invest in trees.
Lisa Forbes of the Glenelm Neighbourhood Association’s tree committee is the driving force of gathering the many groups together in calling for action. “Winnipeg’s urban elm forest, the largest in North America, is an irreplaceable and international treasure. We must act together to press all levels of government to make trees a priority in our City.”
“The time to act is now — the City’s four year budget process is well underway, and I urge all citizens who care about trees to pay attention — join a local community group, or at the very least – send your City Councillor a letter using the Save Our Canopy online resource before November 27th,” Forbes urged.
While noting that multiple community groups across the city access funding and volunteers to implement tree planting projects in their neighbourhoods, significant public investment is needed. She added “The Urban Forestry Branch needs long term funding to implement a sustainable reforestation action plan for the entire City to avoid ecological disaster and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Forbes also pointed out that investing in trees today makes good financial sense. “The urban forest is an essential part of the city’s infrastructure and offers significant returns on everything from increased property taxes and reduced energy costs to flood mitigation. Making an investment in trees is just sound economics. And we’re hopeful that the mayor and councillors will see that.”
The Urban Forestry Branch will be presenting its updated budget on November 16th to the City’s Standing Policy Committee that deals with our canopy. Delegations are then invited to present on November 27th.