Trees Please Winnipeg to Governments: Purchase and Protect the Lemay Forest!
The following is a letter sent by Trees Please Winnipeg on October 31, 2023 in support of the Coalition to Save the Lemay Forest. PDF version here.
To: His Honour the Mayor, Scott Gillingham; City Councillors Markus Chambers, Brian Mayes, Janice Lukes, Sherri Rollins, John Orlikow, Evan Duncan and Cindy Gilroy; Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, the Hon. Terry Duguid; Billie Cross, Member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly for Seine River and the Hon. Jamie Moses, MLA for St. Vital and Minister of Economic Development, Investment, Trade and Natural Resources
RE: Tochal Developments’ intention to build in the location of the Lemay Forest in St. Norbert
Dear Mr. Mayor, Members of Council, Federal and Provincial Representatives:
I am writing on behalf of Trees Please Winnipeg, in support of the Coalition to Save the Lemay Forest, to urge the City of Winnipeg to partner with other levels of government to purchase the 22 acre, privately owned Lemay forest in St. Norbert, one of the few remaining intact forests in Winnipeg. (Please see attached photos below)
The Coalition to Save the Lemay Forest and its members are willing and eager to work with all levels of government to protect this greenfield and forest and have garnered support from other green space and environmental protection organizations such as Trees Please and OURS- Winnipeg.
Recently, Trees Please, local residents and other concerned stakeholders have received emails from John Wintrup, a consultant working on behalf of Tochal Developments, outlining that company’s intention to build on their property.
It is our opinion, and that of local residents, that such a development, whether it destroys this forest in whole or part, would represent a significant loss to the city’s urban forest and greenspace infrastructure – a canopy which City Council has pledged to protect, maintain and expand and one in which the Federal Government recently made a significant investment.
It would be painfully ironic if, after signing of the Montreal Pledge, receiving federal funding from the 2 Billion Trees Fund and pledging to plant 2 public trees for every tree removed, that the mayor and council would then allow for the destruction of the Lemay, an intact forest containing an estimated 9000 to 14000 trees.
Located on a flood plain, the forest is composed primarily of mature elm, ash and oak trees. Bounded on one side by a municipal dike, on the other by an open naturalized greenspace, the Lemay forest is also contiguous with the city-owned Red River riparian forest, and its wildlife corridors provide a safe forested haven for wildlife.
Home to deer, coyotes, foxes and other mammals, the Lemay is also a nesting place for migratory birds and at least one keystone species, the Pileated woodpecker, which recently received enhanced nesting protection under the Federal government’s Migratory Birds Convention Act.
It is also a valuable natural asset worth 100s of thousands of dollars in the long term services it provides to the broader community, including flood protection as well as pollution and heat mitigation. Not to mention the enormous health and mental health values it provides as a much loved hiking and recreational space.
Tochal Developments has indicated that it is open to having the land purchased but has warned that it will move forward with its intended development if offers to purchase are not forthcoming by December, 2023. On October 30th, in a letter sent to residents, Mr. Wintrup indicated that Tochal would begin removing trees “shortly,” presumably in advance of formal development approval by the City.
The company has also sent letters to residents requesting that: “Any and all possessions that households may have stored behind their properties on the Tochal lands needs to be removed by the end of November…”
While this land may ultimately be deemed inappropriate for development, due to its flood plain location or other limitations such a sewage capacity, it is our belief that the city and all levels of government should act now to purchase the land in order protect the Lemay – its forest and greenspace – for future generations.
That action would be consistent not only with the terms of the Montreal pledge but also the city’s stated intention to purchase and develop another 1000 acres of greenspace.
Given that Winnipeg has one of the lowest greenness scores of any major city in Canada, allowing for the destruction of the Lemay forest would only serve to further reduce that score.
As you may know, there are federal funds available that may serve to offset the cost of that purchase. The Natural Infrastructure fund as well as the Federal Govt’s Canada Nature Fund offer two such possibilities. Additional funds might also be made available through the provincial government’s urban forestry program or as part of the new provincial governments commitment to protect 30% of Manitoba Lands and water by 2030.
We urge that the City act now to partner with residents and other levels of government to purchase and protect the Lemay Forest, making it a centrepiece of this city’s commitment to enhancing climate resiliency, protecting its urban canopy and creating a greener, healthier city.
We look forward to hearing from you and would be happy to meet with you to discuss the future of the Lemay forest.
Chair, Trees Please Winnipeg Coalition