Winnipeg cutting back on tree planting by 20 per cent

Winnipeg is cutting back on tree planting this year to devote more resources to mitigating the effects of Dutch elm disease.

City says it's focusing on Dutch elm removals; Coun. Wyatt calls it a service cut

This tree marked with with an orange dot was cut down due to a Dutch elm disease infection. The city is planning to plant fewer trees this year. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

Winnipeg is cutting back on tree planting this year to devote more resources to mitigating the effects of Dutch elm disease.

In 2016, the city and its contractors planted 2,757 trees. This year, the city expects to plant only 2,200 — a cut of 20 per cent — as only contractors will be doing any planting for the city, Winnipeg spokesperson Lisa Fraser said in a statement.

City staff who who planted trees last year will be removing diseased elms instead, Fraser said.

"At the start of the DED [Dutch elm disease] removal season in fall 2016, there were 6,459 elms requiring removal. There are over 1,300 elms that still need to be removed," Fraser said. 

"Elm tree removals must be completed in a timely manner to prevent further increases in the spread of DED — failure to do this increases disease potential, and is expected to result in a continued high volume of elm losses."

The city will consider planting more trees if resources become available, Fraser said.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt said this change is a service cut.

"We were assured during the budget there would be no cuts to frontline services, and this is a core service cut to the citizens of Winnipeg," he said.

"We've always done Dutch elm disease removals. They've decided to take resources out of an existing program, to play catch up once they've fallen behind."