It is time to place a value on Prince Albert’s urban forest to ensure its longevity and health, according to Prince Albert's parks manager.
Tim Yeaman pitched a draft Urban Forest Management Plan to the city's executive committee Tuesday afternoon. Outlined in the document were ways the city could look to move forward on enhancing the health of its valuable urban forest.
“Prior to us even getting to that point where we are properly managing the urban forest, we have to place a value on it,” the parks manager said. “If we don’t place a value on our trees they become, like anything else, disposable.”
Yeaman said a framework needs to be in place that develops a tree inventory, outlines ongoing monitoring and assessment cycles, and covers how to best defend against disease and work toward species diversification. Further, Yeaman stressed the importance of community engagement and education to assist in maintaining the priceless municipal asset. He said a complete plan will all come at a hearty cost, however, and hinted at some “large budgetary asks in the near future” as the city has "inherited some issues” that must now be addressed.
“Forestry is not an inexpensive thing to manage, and I want to be honest about that,” he said. “There is a huge expense to forestry and a high expense to managing what we currently have. It is a part of our community and it is what makes Prince Albert Prince Albert.”
Among the top concerns for the manager were diseases that could devastate the city’s trees. Treading ever closer to Prince Albert is Dutch Elm Disease (DED), which clogs water-conducting tissue in branches and prevents moisture from getting to the leaves, ultimately killing the tree.
In 2017 it was spotted in Melfort. Twelve trees in the city and hundreds more in rural areas to the north were infected. In nearby Tisdale, upwards of 60 trees in town were marked for removal, which can carry a price tag of around $5,000 each. In February, Prince Albert hired a DED Inspector to help mitigate the chance of the disease spreading within municipal boundaries by strengthening provincial regulations within the city.
Another unwelcome visitor travelling west is the Emerald Ash Borer. The insect is native to northeast Asia but has found its way to 33 states and four provinces in North America. The boring beetle is difficult to detect and kills all species of ash.
A study in 2011, according to agenda documents, estimated impacts from poor tree management came in at around US $1.3 billion, mostly borne by municipalities and homeowners. A similar study in Canada which took into account removal and replacement costs to municipalities estimated CDN $524 million in costs, which increased to $890 million when private trees were included.
Adding to the city’s woes is the fact it has fallen behind on important pruning and maintenance work.
"The reality is, with the current crews we have, there is no way we can keep up with the amount of tree work that we have. We are many, many, many years behind in our pruning,” Yeaman said.
The average pruning cycle for a city is seven to 10 years, but Yeaman said most cities struggle to hit 15 to 20, and Prince Albert is "beyond that.”
This statement drew ire from council, with Mayor Greg Dionne questioning where the money directed to a new crew a few years ago was doing. It was explained the new five-man crew's funding was split between forestry in the winter and landscaping the summer. This team works alongside another five man crew.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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