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City at risk of losing elm canopy

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Winnipeg is at risk of losing its elm tree canopy if the city continues to lose two per cent of its trees every year, according to a new report.

A City of Winnipeg administrative report, released this morning, said Winnipeg may no longer be able to effectively manage Dutch Elm disease if it continues to lose two per cent of its trees every year. If this occurs, Winnipeg may lose its elm canopy, resulting in higher costs of tree planting and removal.

Winnipeg's boulevard and park American elm trees are estimated to be worth more than $806 million, according to the report.

The report recommends Winnipeg enact a new strategy to combat the disease, which includes asking the province to re-instate buffer zones in the municipalities of Richot and Springfield and split the $1.9-million cost of additional tree planting, removal and Elm bark beetle control.

Council's public works committee will consider the strategy at a meeting next week.

Earlier this year, council's public works committee asked Winnipeg's public administration to develop a strategy to protect city elm trees amid concerns about the spread of Dutch elm disease. Advocates told city officials they worry the city's elm tree canopy could collapse if Winnipeg does not spend more money on planting and pruning to protect it from the disease.

Before Dutch elm disease was first detected in Winnipeg in 1975, the city had about 275,000 elm trees. Currently, the report said there's an estimated 140,000 elm trees in Winnipeg.

The report said Winnipeg maintains the largest population of elm trees in North America and has the most successful program to combat Dutch elm disease.

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