Summit will look at ways to stem the emerald ash borer infestation killing Montreal trees
By Michelle Lalonde, THE GAZETTE January 17, 2014
The emerald ash borer, a beetle that feeds off the inside of ash trees, has arrived in Montreal. The bug is estimated to have killed millions of trees across the United States, Ontario and Quebec.
MONTREAL – The city of Montreal will hold a one-day summit in March to come up with an island-wide strategy to stop the spread of a destructive foreign beetle that is killing off the island’s ash trees at an alarming rate.
As he announced the emerald ash borer summit Friday, Réal Ménard, the Montreal executive committee member responsible for environmental issues, suggested some cities and boroughs are not making tree planting and protection a priority, and vowed to change that.
Some boroughs have not been participating in the city-wide program to increase the tree canopy, which now covers 20 per cent of the island, to 25 per cent by the year 2025. Implementing that plan would entail Montreal and other cities on the island planting about 300,000 trees over the next decade, over and above normal replacement planting.
Last year, Montreal planted 6,161 trees, with 5,147 of those a result of normal planting programs, and another 1,014 as part of the Canopy Action Plan.
Under that plan, the central city transfers $750 per tree planted, as long as the location of the planting meets certain criteria; they must be planted in poorer neighbourhoods where tree cover is typically sparse, for example.
The city has spent $2.5 million on that borough program over the last two years, planting 3,000 additional trees.
Opposition parks and green spaces critic Sylvain Ouellet said the city is falling behind on its goal, and would have to spend $7 million each year to attain the objectives outlined in the Canopy Action Plan.
Ménard acknowledged the pace of planting is too slow.
“Should our efforts be improved? Absolutely,” he said.
Ménard said he intends to persuade the mayors of nine boroughs who have not been participating in the canopy program to do so in the next year.
Those boroughs are Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Lachine, LaSalle, Île-Bizard–Ste-Geneviève, Montréal-North, Outremont, Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Rivières-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles and Verdun.
The mayors of these boroughs are not insensitive to the environmental and esthetic value of trees, Ménard said.
“I have heard that some have a problem with the money for the program being transferred at the end of the budget year, rather than the beginning, so this needs to be looked at,” he said.
But unless the city gets a handle on the emerald ash borer problem, efforts to increase the overall tree canopy could be foiled, since an estimated 20 per cent of trees along Montreal streets, public parks and forests are ash.
The pest, which is native to eastern Asia, has already killed millions of ash trees in southwestern Ontario, and wiped out ash populations in many American states since 2002. In 2011, infested trees were detected in five Montreal boroughs; Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie and St-Laurent.
Trees in seven more boroughs — Anjou, Lachine, LaSalle, Plateau-Mont-Royal, Outremont, St-Léonard and Ville- Marie — were found to be infested in 2013. The beetle has been detected in several large Montreal parks, including Parc Maisonneuve, Parc Lafontaine, Parc Jean Drapeau and Parc de la Visitation.
In all, 148 beetle infestations have been detected in Montreal on a total of 6,735 trees tested since 2011.
The city spent $1.8 million last year on its testing and treatment program, which entails stripping off the bark on part of a tree to look for telltale S-shaped feeding galleries of the larvae. Once a tree is infested, it will die within one to four years.
When the presence of the beetle is detected in a tree, it must be cut down. Triazine, a pesticide which kills the larvae and renders female beetles sterile, is then injected into the soil around the infected tree and surrounding trees.
Ménard said this method has been demonstrably successful, as no new infestation was detected last year in zones where the beetle was present in 2012.
But again, certain boroughs and cities are not doing enough to detect and treat the problem, Ménard said.
At the summit in March, mayors will be asked to decide whether the beetle program should be overseen and paid for by the island-wide Agglomeration Council, rather than just Montreal. They will also discuss what tools and financial resources are needed to fight the problem.