The City of Regina is seeing its tree population fall quickly.
Last year, Regina had a net loss of 356 trees and had lost 519 more trees this year as of September.
That is according to the State of the Urban Forest 2020 report.
Storms affected the number of trees as a total of 663 trees was serviced for summer storm-related weather events. Of the 663 trees responded to, 63 trees were removed for safety reasons, with the rest being repaired to a safe status. The 2020 total number of trees repaired or removed from storm events is more than the previous four years combined.
It wasn’t just storm conditions; it was also a drought that had a severe impact.
Much of the poor condition trees were impacted by the continuing four-year drought. Environment Canada reports that drought experienced during 2020 was the fourth lowest precipitation in the Regina area for 130 years. In August of 2020, Forestry crews began to focus on buffer trees impacted by drought. During that month, 300 trees were removed for poor/other conditions. For 2020, the trees removed were the highest on record.
For 2020 there is a net loss of 356 trees to the urban forest. This is the first year where removals have exceeded plantings in recent memory. Another sign is that the four years of drought are negatively impacting the tree population.
The report has several recommendations that will be brought to the city council next week, including:
-Consider increasing the tree replacement budget from $91,000 per year to $125,000 per year through the 2022 budget process, with a further increase of $25,000 per year for the next five years.
-Approve the tree donation program, which allows residents to plant trees on public lands on application to the City.
-Declare the first Wednesday of June each year, beginning in 2022, Arbor Day Regina and donate 1,000 tree seedlings to Regina residents.
-Changes to the forestry bylaw are also being recommended, including upping the minimum removal fee for established trees to $500 per tree from $300.
The City’s next council meeting is November 24.