There's a pandemic, invasive species and remaining damage from last October’s snowstorm to deal with — but the movement to grow Winnipeg’s tree population continues.

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There's a pandemic, invasive species and remaining damage from last October’s snowstorm to deal with — but the movement to grow Winnipeg’s tree population continues.

Residents can now register trees they’ve planted on their property on the City of Winnipeg website (winnipeg.ca/milliontrees) as part of its One Million Tree Challenge. The objective is to plant one million new trees as the city reaches one million residents.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files</p><p>Mayor Brian Bowman in Stephen Juba Park last September when he launced an initiative to plant one million trees in the next twenty years in Winnipeg.</p>

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files

Mayor Brian Bowman in Stephen Juba Park last September when he launced an initiative to plant one million trees in the next twenty years in Winnipeg.

Mayor Brian Bowman announced the idea in September, giving two decades to complete the goal. Trees Winnipeg is currently developing the program.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically slowed the challenge’s progress, Bowman said this week. Fundraising has been put on the backburner, and large community groups haven’t been able to plant trees together.

A fundraising campaign, headed by Dayna Spiring, chief executive officer of Economic Development Winnipeg, and Sean Finn, CN Rail executive vice-president, corporate services, will launch in the fall, Bowman said.

The goal is to raise $5 million by the time of Bowman’s 2021 state of the city address. So far, CN has donated $1 million and Telpay Electronic Payment Services has given $250,000. The public can donate to the challenge via Trees Canada’s website.

Co-ordinators have used some of the donated money to plant 2,000 trees in Transcona. Telpay gave out 250 trees at Dakota Community Centre earlier this year, and Trees Winnipeg distributed 500 trees this spring. To reach the challenge’s goal, 50,000 new trees must be planted annually, a city report said.

"If everybody in our city is responsible for planting one tree, as we reach a million people, we will reach this goal," Bowman said Wednesday.

Dutch elm disease is expected to wipe out one-third of the public tree canopy in the next century. Additionally, the emerald ash borer may decimate the city’s ash trees in the next 15 to 20 years, officials said.

Most of the trees in the city — about 90 per cent — are on private property. There are about 3.1 million trees in Winnipeg; only 300,000 of those are on public space.

Trees planted for the One Million Tree Challenge aren’t replacements for those that have been cut down.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do," Bowman said. "It’s a challenge because we know it’s not going to be easy — it’s going to be a long-term effort."

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
The Headliner community journalist

Gabrielle Piché is the community journalist for The Headliner. Gabby is a cub reporter fresh from Red River College’s creative communications program. She majored in journalism and spent the summer of 2020 as an intern at the Winnipeg Free Press. Gabby also has a B.A. in communications from the University of Winnipeg. She reported for newspapers in the Interlake, including the Selkirk Record, in 2019, and received the Eric and Jack Wells Excellence in Journalism award in 2020. When she’s not chasing stories, you can find Gabby listening to podcasts, attempting yoga or petting somebody’s dog Email her at gabrielle.piche@canstarnews.com

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