Debt by Ecology

By Kevin Woodhouse

At a recent Beaconsfield council meeting, councilor and chair of the Finance Committee Wade Staddon gave a recap of the committee’s last meeting, stating that the city currently “had a small surplus unless there is an emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation.”

The remark was made in jest but he may have a point. With the advent of the EAB, municipalities will now have to either contend with no more surpluses or begin a new funding program to combat insidious bugs originally from Asia.

The sheer number of privately and publically owned ash trees throughout the western part of the island, think Baie d’Urfé, Beaconsfield, Senneville and other tree strewn cities and towns will require a lot of available funds to handle a problem that as of yet, has no cure but only preventative treatments.

If the average cost of treating a tree or taking down an infected ash ranges anywhere from $800-$2,000, those are heartbreaking numbers if dozens of trees will require help in the near future.

With the provincial government desperately trying to reign in spending while maintaining services and municipalities full aware that taxing or creating fines that are essentially taxes any more is simply downright cruel, where will the money come to combat the EABs?

Will infrastructure programs in the future need to be scaled back or water games installations postponed because all available money is spent cutting and disposing of damaged trees?

Time will tell. Forewarned is always forearmed and with every city on the island involved in a proactive way, perhaps we can beat back the bugs.

Thankfully, Montreal and West Island cities have not sat on their hands over this issue. Comprehensive and detailed instructions on how to spot and treat a diseased tree and where to look for help can be found on many city websites. 

Dorval has gone the extra step by providing up to a 50 per cent subsidy from the city to defray the cost of having ash trees vaccinated on their property. The city of Beaconsfield will pass a bylaw to treat the EAB and might take a punitive approach to the situation, charging homeowners $750 for not caring for their trees.

What kind of fines could affect Yale properties and Seda Holdings, the two main proprietors of Angell Woods, if it is discovered that their land contains dozens of ash trees—especially if the new policy that all ash trees within a 100 metre diameter of an infected tree must also be treated? It could bankrupt fixed-income seniors whose backyard trees might be too costly to upkeep.

Towns like Kirkland and Sainte Anne de Bellevue have been taking an inventory of all ash trees within the territory. Sainte Anne has marked all ash trees with a yellow ribbon.

“To date, we don’t have any EAB on our territory, out of the 10,000 to 12,000 trees in our public inventory that include parks and streets,” said Kirkland director general Joe Sanalitro. “The plan will will have procedures depending on the infestation such as replacing the tree, repairing or cutting it down. To date, there is nothing concrete about what to do with the infected wood.”

A policy will need to be forthcoming on how to handle the infected and diseased trees beyond not being allowed to transport said material between May and September.

In Baie d’Urfé where volunteer-power has always been the norm, residents have signed up to serve as inspectors of the town’s ash trees. Participants recently took part in a training session and members of the team include current and former Mayors Maria Tutino and Anne Myles.

Municipalities are in the process of taking inventory—while no EABs have been detected in Sainte Anne-deBellevue, Kirkland, Beaconsfield and Kirkland—the town of Pointe Claire detected “two infected ash trees that were cut down and safely shredded to avoid spreading contamination,” explained Pointe Claire Mayor Morris Trudeau. “We are now inspecting surrounding ash trees that show signs of infestation and are stripping their bark, when necessary, to protect as many trees as possible.”

At a recent city council meeting in Villeray-Saint Michel-Park Extension, councilor Sylvain Ouellet told local residents that “a new generation will have nothing but a lot of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures to remind them of what the city used to look like before global warming and a tiny Asian insect killed off all the trees that used to make it one of the most beautiful cities in the world.” 

— with files from P.A. Sévigny

‘Tie a yellow ribbon round the old Ash tree’. Municipalities all over the island are identifying all ash trees in an effort to stem the infestation of EAB that has made it to the West Island.

Members of the Baie d’Urfe EAB inspection squad, comprised of volunteers, went through a training session recently to learn how to spot and identify ash trees and those that have been infected by EAB.

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