Emerald ash borer hits West Island

‘Drastic measures’ needed after deadly pest found in Pointe Claire

By Robert Frank

Baie d’Urfé is racing against time stop the Emerald Ash Borer from denuding the leafy town’s parks of nearly a fifth of its trees this coming summer.

“Most cities are taking drastic measures,” said Mayor Maria Tutino. “We might find our parks depleted.”

“[The Emerald Ash Borer] is moving quickly,” she reported. “We were told that it would not reach the West Island until 2018. Last year, it was discovered in Hampstead. This year, an infected ash tree was found in Pointe Claire.”

Baie d’Urfé has responded by taking a comprehensive inventory of the town’s trees.

“The good news is that we have 85 species of trees in town,” Mayor Tutino said. “The bad news is that 18.5 percent of the town’s 2,495 trees are ash.”

Heading the way of the elm?

Ironically, Baie d’Urfé plays host to a rare North American elm tree. It’s one of the few remaining in Montreal, after Dutch elm disease borne by similar pests wiped almost all of them out during the early 1970s.

Elms are now rare in most cities. Winnipeg is a notable exception. The Manitoba city is home to the largest mature elm forest in North America and continues to go to spend about $3 million each year to preserve its remaining stock of some 160,000 of the majestic trees. A major charity, www.savetheelms.mb.ca, has succeeded in attracting large corporate sponsors to support the ongoing preservation initiative.

Mayor Tutino estimated that the cost of saving Montreal’s ash trees could reach $43 million.

“It would be an expensive venture,” she acknowledged. “All cities on the island would have to be involved, and approach the Quebec government for financial help.”

There are also a large number of ash trees on private property, Mayor Tutino noted.

“If people don’t deal with the privately owned trees as well, then we won’t be able to avoid the problem,” she said.

Pointe Claire public facilities coordinator Isabelle Dyotte confirmed that the city detected an Emerald Ash Borer in mid-to-late July, near its eastern border with Dorval.

“We found it in one of the pheromone-baited traps that we set out,” she told The Suburban in an interview. “We continued our screening program through the end of September, but have not subsequently detected any more of the insects.”

Pointe Claire is home to a wealth of ash trees, according to Dyotte.

“Our inventory is not complete, but there are some 1,000 or more ash trees on Pointe Claire city property,” she said.

“That’s just public spaces,” Dyotte noted. “We don’t have any idea yet how many ash tries citizens have on their own properties.”

Dyotte said that Pointe Claire will continue its Emerald Ash Borer monitoring program during summer 2014.

“We expect our tree inventory to be completed by that time, as well,” she added.

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