Selkirk’s efforts to limit the spread of Dutch Elm Disease (DED) are paying off in more ways than one. First, far fewer infected trees had to be removed this year and second, because of that, the city was able to redirect funds tagged for removing trees to further bolster its urban canopy.
Mihali Schindle, Urban Forestry and Naturalization Coordinator with the city’s Parks and Rec Division, says provincial assessors inspect Selkirk’s elm trees annually as part of the Community Forest Grant agreement and determine how many need to be removed. The grant allows the city to hire contractors to remove infected trees.
“This year we had far less trees for removal than had been anticipated, so instead of using those remaining funds for future removals the province granted that amount to us for purchasing new equipment or services to improve our urban forestry operations,” Schindle said.
“It’s an indication we’re doing something right. The purpose of the removal program, in partnership with the province, is so that we limit the transmission of Dutch Elm Disease to healthy elms. If we’re able to identify it early on, we can remove those trees and prevent the likelihood of disease spread to other trees throughout the city.
“Throughout the years we’ve removed quite a few elm trees so that’s one reason why the numbers are lower but we’re also now preventing the spread of the disease.”
New tools and equipment increase efficiency
The city was able to purchase a large utility trailer, water trailer and various forestry tools and equipment with the grant money.
Schindle says the hydraulic utility trailer will increase efficiency in tree removal and pruning throughout the city and will also be used to transport wood mulch, topsoil, trees, shrubs and other plants to planting sites.
The water trailer will make watering of newly planted trees, shrubs, annual flower installations and newly naturalized areas easier.
The grant money also allowed the city to hire a contractor to conduct a tree risk assessment and measure the internal decay of trees in the Selkirk Park Campground.
Forty-eight trees were assessed this March and of those, seven were identified as being high risk and recommended for removal, seven were in need of significant pruning and 34 were considered low risk.
Five of the trees will be removed by a contractor due to their size while the other two will be removed by trained city staff.
City’s street tree policy guides tree removal in responsible way
The city doesn’t take removing a tree lightly and does all it can to keep older trees in place. The city follows International Society of Arboriculture assessment parameters and methodologies, the national standard for tree care, maintenance and assessments, along with monitoring tree condition over time as part of the city’s street tree inventory.
The city’s Street Tree Policy, which includes trees in city parks, states that trees will not be removed without just cause. It also states that structurally damaged trees posing a threat to public safety require emergency removal.
Also, when replacing trees, the city selects a variety of species so they are less vulnerable to disease and pests specific to a one type, such as Dutch Elm Disease or Emerald Ash Borer, which affect elm and ash trees respectively.
Electrifying our equipment
Environmental stewardship is a priority in Selkirk’s Strategic Plan which calls for the city to improve its own practices and services. Part of the grant money was used to purchase electric motorized equipment including a chainsaw, pole saw and hedge trimmers to replace gas-powered equipment.
Schindle says electric motors are not only easier to maintain, but far better for the environment.
“We wanted to take the opportunity to purchase some new equipment. Some of the old gas-powered equipment we have is starting to reach the end of its life so it’s perfect timing to upgrade. Also those small two-stroke motors that you find on chainsaws and hedge trimmers are probably the highest polluting combustion engines out there,” Schindle said.
“Even though they’re small, a little two-stroke leaf blower emits way more volatile emissions than an average car does. To go from two-stroke to electric, that’s a pretty good environmental upgrade.”
The city was also able to purchase a variety of miscellaneous equipment like shovels, pruning saws and shears.