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Last Forest Standing: How to Keep Edmonton DED-Free

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The Chipps Tree Care World Elm Tour is coming to a close, right here at home. Alberta has one of the last populations of American elms in the world free of Dutch Elm Disease, a virulent arboreal infection that’s been present in North America since the 1930s. It’s decimated urban canopies across Europe, Canada, and the United States. In places like New Haven, Connecticut, it turned beautifully shaded streets barren in only a few years, while European capitals like Paris had to replace nearly every tree lining their famous boulevards and canals. Asian bark beetles spread this fungus that literally sucks the life out of its victims, but the true culprits have been the people who transport the dead wood where these beetles make their homes. In fact, it first reached North America in furniture imported from Europe.

As we’ve seen, Winnipeg’s aggressive treatment and replanting policy has left it with the largest intact population in North America, with 270,000 elms. In Edmonton, there are 42,000 of them owned publically, and others on private property. However, the city of Winnipeg and province of Manitoba spend millions every year on preservation. The Edmonton plan is focused on keeping DED out altogether, despite the known presence of Asian bark beetles.

There are a number of rules and bylaws in place when it comes to pruning and removing elm trees in the city, and the municipality recommends that you hire arborists certified with the International Society of Arboriculture, including the team at Chipps Tree Care. Here are some key rules to follow that will keep you out of trouble and keep Edmonton DED-free:

1. Only prune healthy elms between October 1st and March 31st. Dead wood and crowns damaged by lightning or wind can be pruned anytime (and it’s recommended that they are), but you will have to contact the city via 311 or email to obtain permission. Branches must be chipped, buried, or burned according to strict standards.
2. Dead trees can be removed any time of year, but branches and trunks must be taken to one of the city’s four eco stations.
3. Stumps must be ground to 10 centimetres beneath the surface to prevent them from becoming a home for beetles.
4. Do not store or transport their firewood anywhere in the province of Alberta.

If you see a specimen on your property, boulevard, or in your neighbourhood, do something about it. If you’re not sure how to identify an Ulmus Americana, you can recognize them by their greyish-brown bark, dark green leaves with double-serrated edges, and branches that grow upward into an arch or umbrella shape. Thanks to their expansive crowns, they have an incredible cooling effect during hot prairie summers, and their arching canopies were one reason they became so popular in cities across Canada and Europe.

If you have a dying or damaged elm on your property in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Strathcona County, St. Albert, Beaumont, or anywhere in the Capital City region, contact our team and remove it safely. It only took DED a matter of years to entirely decimate the elm populations in Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal, even though places like Quebec City and Winnipeg were employing effective preservation strategies. At Chipps Tree Care, we want to keep DED out altogether by carefully pruning and removing dead and damaged wood according to ISA standards.