What is the urban forest?

    The term urban forest describes the sum total of all trees, vegetation, soil, and associated natural processes across a landscape – both on public and private land. This includes all trees in parks and existing forests, on streets, private properties and agricultural lands, and as part of other ecosystems.

    Why does Winnipeg need an urban forest strategy?

    Winnipeg’s urban forest faces many significant challenges. These challenges include insects and disease that threaten the most common tree species in the city, as well as climate change and urban development that continue to place pressure on the urban tree canopy. These combined challenges threaten the urban forest’s capacity to provide beneficial ecosystem services like cooling, improved air quality, rainwater interception, and habitat connectivity – all key contributors to our city’s resilience. The Winnipeg Urban Forest Strategy provides an opportunity to establish a long-term vision for the urban forest, to develop clear guidance and measurable outcomes, and to identify the resources required to sustain an urban forest that is resilient to current and future challenges.

    What is involved in developing the Winnipeg Urban Forest Strategy?

    Developing the Winnipeg Urban Forest Strategy will require:

    • Analyzing technical information and data to assess the current state of the city’s urban forest 
    • Conducting jurisdictional scans to look at how other municipalities are responding to similar challenges
    • Engaging with residents and stakeholders to identify priorities and potential solutions for preserving, protecting, growing, and enhancing the urban forest
    • Developing a community-supported vision for the urban forest that captures Winnipeggers’ perspectives on identity, culture, and long-term wants and needs 
    • Drafting a strategy that uses information gathered through analysis and engagement to shape a vision and recommendations for managing Winnipeg’s urban forest
    • Refining the draft Strategy and recommendations with feedback from residents, City staff and other stakeholders

    Why are there so many American elm and ash trees in Winnipeg?

    The City has been planting trees on boulevards and in urban parks since the late 1800s. American elm was a tree of choice because it is native and hardy, reaches a grand size, and creates beautiful arching canopies over streets. Our city has the largest urban population of American elms in North America. When Dutch Elm Disease (DED) was first discovered in Winnipeg in 1975, the City responded and quickly became a municipal leader in DED management.

    As an alternative to the American elm, ash trees were widely planted because they are also native and can tolerate Winnipeg’s climate and urban conditions. However, ash is now under threat with the 2017 detection of emerald ash borer and cottony ash psyllid infestations. The City began reducing the number of ash trees planted in 2009, and altogether stopped planting ash trees in 2016. Few other shade tree species offer the same promise of reliable growth that elm and ash have historically provided.

    What is the City doing to manage Dutch Elm Disease?

    Dutch Elm Disease (DED) was first detected in Winnipeg in 1975. Since then, the City has become known as a North American leader in municipal DED management. Winnipeg’s Urban Forestry Branch conducts annual city-wide surveillance of all American elms, monitors for and enforces proper disposal of elm firewood, removes diseased elms from public and private properties, and prunes and plants a diverse mix of trees on public property. The City’s Insect Control Branch conducts elm bark beetle control. The Urban Forestry Branch also provides public education in partnership with Trees Winnipeg, a local non-government urban forestry organization. 

    Find more information at: https://www.winnipeg.ca/publicworks/parksOpenSpace/UrbanForestry/DED.stm

    What is the City doing to manage Emerald Ash Borer?

    Emerald ash borer (EAB) was discovered in the City in 2017. The City’s early EAB response included surveillance and tree removal in the areas where EAB was first detected. The Urban Forestry Branch has identified the "Slow Ash Mortality," or SLAM approach as the most effective to manage EAB and the loss of our ash trees to this invasive pest. Through this approach, a percentage of eligible ash trees on public properties will be injected with an approved pesticide to preserve them as long as possible to help manage the losses. The remaining ash trees on public properties will be removed as they die and will possibly be replaced over time. Currently, this approach is being applied as existing resources permit. 

    Find more information at: https://winnipeg.ca/publicworks/parksOpenSpace/UrbanForestry/EmeraldAsh.stm

    What is the State of the Urban Forest Report?

    The report outlines current local context, ongoing opportunities, and current and future challenges that will help inform strategy development.

    How much does Winnipeg currently spend on urban forest management?

    • The 2021 service-based budget for tree planting, tree pruning and removals, and Dutch elm disease is $12.2 million and capital budget for reforestation and urban forest enhancement is $6.18 million
    • The approximate annual budget for boulevard and park tree maintenance is $15/tree (not including DED management) 

    What level of service does Winnipeg’s urban forest management program provide to Winnipeggers?

    • More than 90 percent of the public tree inventory is in fair to good condition; just six percent of trees in the public tree inventory are in poor or dead condition
    • Trees are pruned approximately once in 31 years  
    • In 2020, approximately 19% of boulevard and park trees removed were replanted
    • There are approximately up to 14,500 sites to plant replacement trees and approximately 26,000 vacant sites to plant new trees on public property

    How does Winnipeg compare to other Canadian cities?

    In addition to providing a snapshot of the state of the City’s urban forest, the report examines Winnipeg’s level of service in five primary areas of urban forest management (Plan, Plant, Manage, Protect, Partner). It then benchmarks Winnipeg’s service delivery against industry best practice and trends from across the country to provide a “Winnipeg’s Urban Forest Report Card.”  Overall, Winnipeg’s urban forest management ranks “Fair.” The report indicates nearly all aspects of the Protect service area as priorities for the strategy to address, as well as a number of aspects in both the plan and plant services areas. It is important to note that the areas in which Winnipeg received a Poor grade will be addressed through the development of a tree protection bylaw, which is in itself part of the strategy.

    What are the draft Strategy’s key findings about Winnipeg’s urban forest?

    The key findings are:

    • Winnipeg’s canopy cover was 17 percent in 2018
    • Twelve percent of potential planting sites on public land were vacant in 2020
    • Less than one tree replaced for every three trees removed in 2020
    • Ash and elm make up 58 percent of the city’s public tree inventory in 2020
    • The City lost 1.4 percent of its public trees in 2020
    • American elm loss on public and private land averaged 3.3 percent from 2016 to 2020
    • Public tree pruning occurred on a 31-year cycle in 2019
    • Customer satisfaction with current urban forestry levels of service was less than 50 percent on average in 2020

    What key targets does the draft Strategy set for Winnipeg’s urban forest?

    Key targets include:

    • Increase canopy cover from 17 to 24 percent by 2065 or it maintain at 17 percent if emerald ash borer establishes
    • Have no more than five percent of potential planting sites vacant by 2065
    • Replace every public tree removed annually (1:1 tree replacement)
    • Have no more than 10 percent of any species and 20 percent of any genus in the public inventory by 2065
    • Loose no more than 1.5 percent of public trees annually
    • Loose no more than two percent American elms annually citywide
    • Shorten the pruning cycle from 31-year to a seven-year cycle for street trees and a 12-year cycle park trees
    • Increase customer satisfaction with all levels of service to 50 percent of greater

    Why is the City setting a canopy target of 24 percent by 2065 (or 17 percent if emerald ash borer establishes)?

    The City is setting a canopy cover target between 17 and 24 percent by 2065 that was established based on potential planting opportunities for canopy growth and will vary based on whether emerald ash borer establishes in the region. Just over half of Winnipeg’s public tree population is susceptible to emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease and with warmer growing seasons impacting the life cycle of insects, increasing populations of emerald ash borer are a concern. 

    The best case scenario target is to increase canopy cover target from 17 to 24 percent by 2065. The canopy target assumes a scenario where emerald ash borer is slow to establish, elm loss from Dutch elm disease is a maximum of two percent per year citywide on public and private land, planting rate is increased, and every tree removed on public land is replaced. 

    The alternative target to maintain 17 percent canopy cover by 2065 assumes a scenario where emerald ash borer establishes in Winnipeg and assumes all ash are lost to emerald ash borer, planting rates on public land increase, and one fifth of tree canopy would be lost based on the proportional leaf area of ash estimated in an i-Tree Eco study.

    What are the five management goals driving implementation of the draft Strategy?

    There are five management goals including associated policies and actions to guide the draft Strategy outlined below. The five goals are:

    1. Plan accountably to achieve an equitable distribution of connected tree and forest assets that will improve the health of people and communities
    2. Plan strategically to grow a robust and sustainable urban forest that will maximize benefits for human health and ecological function
    3. Manage adaptively to improve tree health and public safety, respond to challenges and opportunities, and achieve planned levels of service
    4. Protect prudently to sustain Winnipeg’s urban forest canopy where it will maximize benefits for human health and ecological function
    5. Partner purposefully to foster reconciliation and stewardship that will build capacity to achieve goals and respond to challenges