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Dutch Elm Disease fight enters a new phase

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There are some changes coming in the war against Dutch Elm Disease.
A new rapid removal component has been added to the program to get most infected trees out the environment as quickly as possible.
“The province will come out in July and start identifying our highest risk elm trees and the most active in the progression of the disease, the ones with the most active beetles is what I’m told,” city manager Sharla Griffiths said.
“Shortly thereafter, within days, we will need to remove them. That’s based on the life cycle of these beetles that transmit the disease.”
Griffiths added there are special considerations and techniques that are required when removing the “super shedder” trees to prevent the spread of bark and beetles.
“Then it has to be removed from the site and, I think, burned,” Griffiths said.
“So that will be almost like a phase one of the removal program. It won’t be all of the trees, but it will be the more contagious trees.”
Normally the city receives a list of trees marked for removal from the province in September and October and must complete the removal by the end of March. That will continue as a second phase of removal, Griffiths said.
“The province will continue with the full list and give that to us like they usually do in September. We will note which trees that we have already removed and then put those other trees out for tender,” Griffiths said.
“This removal and disposal must be done to administer the Dutch Elm Disease program as effectively as possible. In other words, just doing the July rapid removal list will not be effective.”
While doing two sets of removals may add to costs, both phases are eligible for provincial funding.
That funding does not cover 100 per cent of costs, Griffiths added, however, the City sees value in trying to save its elm tree population by removing diseased trees.
In recent years, the city has been removing between 50 and more than 100 trees. This year the list identified more than 200 trees needing to be removed.
The city heard about the rapid removal program from a Dauphin resident and contacted the province about taking part.
“At the council table they said ‘wow this is really something that we want to look at’ because if we’re taking down between now between 50 and 200 trees a year because of Dutch Elm Disease, let’s see if there’s anything else that we can do’,” Griffiths said.
“And this was something that presented itself, that we thought we would try.”
The city will participate in the rapid removal program this year to work on the logistics and see if it is feasible to continue.
One of the biggest unknowns is identifying the best process for getting the trees removed in a timely manner, be it through a contractor or possibly utilizing Dauphin Recreation Services crews.
“This is something that we’re going to try for 2021. There will be a smaller number of trees than what our total list will be for a year, so it’s possible that we could use the DRS if they have the capacity. But honestly that’s something that we really have to talk about more,” Griffiths said, adding the city will also have to implement a process for prioritizing the trees if the overall number is more than can be completed before the deadline.
“If they identify 80 trees it might not be something that we can do. If they identify eight or 10 trees, maybe that’s something that we can do.”
With the number of trees coming down in recent years, replenishment of the canopy is a priority, but it is slow process, Griffiths said.
“Dauphin Rec Services is the group that does that for us and there are limitations. It’s easy to plant a tree, but you do have to water it for, what we’re told is three years afterwards,” she said.
“So if they planted 100 trees a year, they would be watering literally 300 trees regularly at any given time in the summer, which is beyond their capacity.”
This past year, the city ran a tree giveaway program which allowed residents to select from a variety of tree species and plant them on their properties. The program was a tremendous success, Griffiths said, and did not cost the city anything extra.
“The capital was the same, we would have to buy the trees anyways. But we left it to the residents to not only plant them and water them, but also enjoy them,” she said, adding the program is part of the budget discussions for 2021.
“I think that most people enjoy trees, but when you actually get to choose your type of tree and you get to plant it where you want to in your yard, you do have a greater sense of ownership.”