City crews to count elms alongside rapid-removal project

Winnipeg's urban forest will shrink again this year, and forestry crews are planning a count of remaining elm trees across the city this summer.
City of Winnipeg plans to conduct inventory of all elm trees on private properties this May, ahead of its regularly scheduled rapid-removal program for diseased elms. 1:46

Winnipeg’s urban forest will shrink again this year, and forestry crews are planning a count of remaining elm trees across the city this summer.

The City of Winnipeg has planned an inventory of all elm trees on private properties to begin in May, ahead of their regularly scheduled rapid-removal program for diseased elms.

City forester Martha Barwinsky said it has been four decades since the elms in Winnipeg were counted.

Thousands have been removed in that time because of disease.

About 4,800 elm trees were marked for removal in 2012 due to Dutch elm disease. (CBC)

Barwinsky said forestry staff with handheld GPS devices will track the trees, and any diseased trees will be removed.

"We need to get a better handle on the number of trees that we have on private property to better identify where we would conduct our rapid-removal program," said Barwinsky.

About 5,000 elm trees are chopped down in the city every year, according to Barwinsky. That represents about two per cent of Winnipeg’s trees.

"That's a significant number of trees and a significant part of the population of our urban forest," she said.

"Over 80 per cent of those trees actually occur on private properties, so private properties are taking a big hit."

Wolseley resident worried

Patricia Vineburg moved into Winnipeg’s Wolseley area in the summer of 2012.

One of the draws, Vineburg said, was the giant canopy of elm trees.

"They’re just so beautiful. It’s like a movie set," said Vineburg.

There’s even one in her backyard.

"You can see the sunlight coming through. I love to sit under [it] and read," she said.

Vineburg knows city inspectors will be around to check on her trees, and if they’re diseased, they’ll be marked for removal.

"I sincerely hope I don’t lose one, but if I do, I would understand," she said.

Barwinsky said the trees have to removed if they are diseased to prevent it from spreading to other, healthy trees. 

City's elm canopy in danger

Previously, city administrators have warned Winnipeg is at risk of losing its elm tree canopy entirely.

A report released in November 2012 said the city might not be able to manage Dutch elm disease.

City administrators warn Winnipeg is at risk of losing its elm tree canopy.

A report released Thursday states the city might not be able to manage Dutch elm disease if it continues to lose two per cent of its trees every year, which numbers close to 5,000 trees.

Winnipeg has one of North America's largest elm tree populations.

This year’s diseased tree removal will begin in mid-July.