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City’s naturalization program makes significant strides

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The city concluded tree planting for 2023 with more than 180,000 trees planted, making significant strides toward the goal of planting 2 million trees. The record number of trees planted is more than three times the previous year and includes trees planted as part of several City programs, including naturalization, Root for Trees and the Boulevard and Open Space tree planting programs.

“As we plant trees and incorporate naturalization, we work towards a climate-resilient future. Edmonton’s growing tree canopy is not just about greening our landscape, it’s about enhanced air quality, biodiversity and cooler urban spaces,” said Nicole Fraser, General Supervisor of Operations Planning and Monitoring, Parks and Roads.

Much of the City’s naturalization efforts were done through the Root for Trees program, the City’s volunteer tree planting program. In 2023, 3,752 volunteers participated in the program planting 34,167 trees and shrubs at 186 events.

Naturalization is increasingly incorporated into the design of parks, neighbourhoods and projects led by the City, developers and utility companies. More than 1,000 hectares of City-maintained land is naturalized as grass or planted with trees and shrubs.

A new educational video helps educate residents about the benefits of naturalization and explains how naturalization works to build more habitat for pollinators, birds and other animals. Interpretive signs are being added in the coming months to many naturalized areas near stormwater management facilities to educate residents on naturalization.

“Naturalization plays an increasingly prominent role in many places across the City, and it is important for residents to understand how it works,” said Fraser. “Seeing the process of naturalization over a ten year period in neighbourhoods like Hazledean provides a good example of what is ahead for the many areas being naturalized today.”

 

Earlier this year, the City received funding from the Government of Canada’s 2 Billion Trees program to support new tree planting projects. Using this $48 million in funding as well as approved capital budget funding of approximately $66 million, the City of Edmonton will plant more than 2.5 million trees and shrubs over 300 hectares across the City, in naturalized areas, boulevards and open spaces. Planting work in support of Greener as We Grow began in April 2022 and will continue until the end of 2030.

The City is strategic about where naturalization and maintained tree planting will occur, and is building tools to update processes and criteria for site selection, planning, budgeting and implementation. Processes and best practices for ongoing monitoring and maintenance are being updated to take into account factors such as equity, heat island effect, walking access to green spaces, recreation opportunities, wildlife connectivity and biodiversity, carbon capture and more.

“Through this work we have engaged with Edmontonians and community groups to help us better understand how green spaces are used and the level of support for naturalization and boulevard and open space tree planting. We want to make sure we preserve existing recreation activities such as tobogganing, while also identifying areas where tree planting will have the best impact” said Fraser.

The City is delivering on the commitment made in The City Plan to be “Greener as we Grow” – driving climate resilience ahead and strengthening our natural systems. The target of having two million trees planted within the next eight years is part of the City’s Urban Forest Asset Management goal of achieving 20 percent canopy cover by 2071. The City maintains an existing inventory of more than 397,000 boulevard and open space trees, 2,500 hectares of natural area tree stands and 1,000 hectares of naturalized areas.

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