Demonstrators strike a pose to urge city to care for Winnipeg's tree canopy

Demonstrators stood tall during the noon hour to speak out against potential cuts to Winnipeg's urban forestry budget.

Trees Please Coalition holds 'stand-in' at Portage Place, calling for support for trees in upcoming budget

Demonstrators held a 'stand still' at Portage Place shopping centre on Wednesday, calling for more funding for Winnipeg's trees. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Demonstrators stood tall and struck their best yoga tree poses at Portage Place mall on Wednesday, urging the city to do more to protect Winnipeg's urban canopy.

"We've got trees that are over a hundred years old that are going to get cut unless they get taken care of," said rally organizer Lisa Forbes, who is with the Glenelm Neighbourhood Association's trees committee. The association is part of the Trees Please Coalition, which organized the Wednesday noon-hour "stand-still" event along with the community group Budget for All.

"There's no waiting for it. When they're gone, they're gone."

The demonstration was a reaction to repeated warnings from Winnipeg Mayor Bowman that the city's upcoming four-year budget will present "tough choices." During budget consultations, city staff warned of potentially deep cuts to meet spending targets set by the mayor.

That's led to fears that funding for managing the city's tree canopy will get chopped.

"[The city's] urban forestry [department] said it needed [another] $7.61 million to maintain the trees, to do an adequate pruning cycle," said Forbes.

She said that type of maintenance helps reduce stress, making trees less vulnerable to disease and pests.

Lisa Forbes of the Trees Please Coalition says 60 per cent of Winnipeg's trees are at risk from disease and pests. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"Emerald ash borer and the cottony ash psyllid are going to devastate all of ash trees in 10 years," said Forbes.

"And then we have the rate of losing about 25 per cent of trees to Dutch elm disease. Sixty per cent of our trees are at immediate threat right now to those diseases."

The coalition says investing in trees creates benefits that continue to grow, such as increasing property values and saving energy. 

The City of Winnipeg has set a goal of planting 50,000 new trees a year, but has previously said it's relying on volunteers and donors to reach that target.

The city's new four-year budget will be tabled on March 6.



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