Mayoral candidate touts ‘tree trust’ to save canopy


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Winnipeg needs a “tree trust” to preserve its canopy, says mayoral candidate Shaun Loney.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/06/2022 (284 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg needs a “tree trust” to preserve its canopy, says mayoral candidate Shaun Loney.

He announced Friday that if he is elected mayor on Oct. 26, he would establish an independent group to get funding from philanthropic foundations and the federal government for organizations that protect the city’s trees.

“I certainly commend council for increasing the tree budgets, but we need to do something entirely different, we’re losing our tree canopy rather rapidly,” Loney told the Free Press.

This year, the city increased its urban forestry operating budget by $2.3 million to $38.8 million.

Loney promised to work with council to ensure the “tree trust,” which would be mandated to employ workers from disenfranchised backgrounds, “allows the city to begin to treat trees as infrastructure.”

“When we treat trees as infrastructure, we can see that it becomes like pavement and pipes, and a lot more money is dedicated toward trees,” he said. “We’re able to acknowledge the financial benefits that trees provide the city… failure to keep up with replacing the trees is actually reducing city revenues by reducing property values.”

In response, mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham, currently councillor for St. James, said a trust model would create risks.

“I think that the city would not be able to focus capital and management and other parts of resources… there’s a lot we can do to improve services around establishing new trees and protecting our tree canopy, but I don’t think that a trust model, which would move it more outside the city’s jurisdiction, would be the way to go,” he said.

He wouldn’t give details about his campaign’s approach to tree preservation.

Trees Winnipeg spokesman Matt Vinet said while Loney’s idea seems positive, the city should focus on removing trees infected with Dutch elm disease in a timely matter. When trees marked for removal aren’t cut down right away, Vinet said, the disease spreads faster.

“We have a huge canopy of elm trees in the city that I don’t think anybody realizes are going to be completely gone in 10 years at this rate,” he said.

There are hundreds of diseased trees marked for removal that were supposed to be taken down months ago, he said, and he hopes the next mayor chops away at the backlog.

“We’re about to start surveillance and tagging trees in 2022. There’s still trees sitting with elm bark beetles in them, they’re carrying Dutch elm disease, from 2021,” he said.

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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