Last April, the province of Manitoba finally announced a heritage tree program that will protect significant trees. Cutting a designated tree on Crown land would carry a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for corporations.
Protection and recognition for our heritage trees has been on the front burner for tree lovers for many years, going back to the late 1950s when local citizens took up the cause of the Wolseley elm. Local residents came together to physically stop the city from cutting down the tree which it had earmarked for removal as a traffic impediment. Sadly, the protest stopped the city but not some local vandals who ultimately destroyed the tree by burning.
The legislation covers only trees on Crown land, but it prevents removal for any reason other than safety or health. It will be run in partnership with the Manitoba Forestry Association, which has had its own program since the 1980s and has published a book of heritage trees in the past. More recently, the Rivers West – Red River Corridor Inc. has taken up the cause, and Trees Winnipeg, formerly the Coalition to Save the Elms, has been working on a heritage tree program in the city for the past several years.
A registry will be created where trees can be nominated for recognition and then dedicated with a plaque. The Manitoba Forestry Association already has a base list of trees, but is actively seeking more nominations.