City of Winnipeg looks for help managing Dutch elm, emerald ash borer

Winnipeg wants outside help developing a 20-year vision for managing the city's urban forest and controlling pests like Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer.

'Scope and urgency' of emerald ash borer control program expected to rapidly grow, city says

Winnipeg is looking for consultants to develop a 20-year urban forest strategy that takes into account the impact of pests like Dutch elm and emerald ash borer. (Getty Images)

Winnipeg wants outside help developing a 20-year vision for managing the city's urban forest and controlling pests like Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer.

The city is looking for consultants to develop the strategy with input from the public, says a request for proposals issued Wednesday.

"It is expected that the [emerald ash borer] program will rapidly grow in scope and urgency in the future," the city says.

The "comprehensive urban forest strategy" would include guidance on managing pests as well as tree pruning, planting and maintenance. The consultants will have to take into account public opinion and feedback to develop the strategy. 

The city says, increasingly, its approach to protecting the urban forest has become reactive.

"The comprehensive urban forest strategy will define long-term vision and goals, provide policy recommendations and provide strategic direction and framework to guide affordable and sustainable decisions regarding the future of urban forestry programs and services," the city says.

Strategy a 'really good idea'

Tree Canada, a charity that promotes urban forests, praised Winnipeg for creating the plan.

"There's so many things to look at in terms of what kind of tree, what size of tree, where to plant trees and where to maintain trees," said Michael Rosen, president of Tree Canada. "It's really a good idea."

Winnipeg maintains approximately 305,000 trees on boulevards and parks. The city also manages Dutch elm disease on trees growing anywhere in the city, including on private land.

The city has been fighting the fungi since it was discovered in south Winnipeg in 1975. As elm trees died, the city planted ash trees in their place.

Emerald ash borer was discovered in Winnipeg in 2017. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The species is one of only a few hearty trees that thrive in Winnipeg despite the cold winters, hot and dry summers and heavy clay soil.

In 2017, the emerald ash borer was discovered in Winnipeg trees. In other municipalities the bug has ravaged ash populations.

"Winnipeg is lucky in a sense. It has the experience of the emerald ash borer [in] so many other cities in eastern Canada to draw on and figure out a strategy," said Rosen.

"That's about the only upside of what Winnipeg has to deal with." 

Winnipeg's current efforts to control the pest are two-fold — removing trees that are infected and injecting ash trees with pest control chemicals. In 2018, Winnipeg also began removing ash trees infected with cottony ash psyllid or jumping tree lice.

When completed, the urban forest strategy would apply from 2020 to 2040.


Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at


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