Dutch elm disease will claim more than 6,000 trees in Winnipeg this year, up significantly from the number of trees that were lost to the disease last year.
“We’re all concerned,” said City of Winnipeg forester Martha Barwinsky. “That’s a lot of trees. We haven’t seen the 6,000 mark for about 10 or 12 years.”
Earlier this year, the city cut more than $1 million in funding for Dutch elm disease control. That funding cut prevent crews from getting out as quickly to remove infected trees, which prevents the spread of the disease.
“Winnipeg has been known to have some of the most virulent strains of Dutch elm disease known,” Barwinsky explained.
In 1990, the city had to chop down 10,000 trees in one year.
She said the good news this year is the city count of elm trees shows Winnipeg still has about 232,000 elms, which is more than earlier predictions.
“We actually have a lot more American elms than we thought we had. We now have the most accurate inventory of American elms we’ve ever had in Winnipeg,” she said. “That’s good news.”
Barwinsky said the majority of infected trees are on private property along riverbanks in the south end of Winnipeg.
“We have a very high incidence of the disease actually in the southern portion of the city along the south Red and Seine Rivers and La Salle rivers. That’s a real hotspot. We’ve lost a lot of trees there,” she said. “It tends to follow river corridors, which have good habitat for elm bark beetle.”
She said homeowners can help by monitoring their trees for disease and not disturbing roots by raising the grade or digging too close to trees.
Barwinsky said homeowners should be planting trees when they lose an elm to help replace it. She advises planting at least one or two trees.