Trees As Infrastructure

Canada’s urban forests are a precious resource and much-loved feature of the urban landscape. They are also valuable natural assets. Based on the structural value and benefits Winnipeg’s urban forest provides – including carbon storage, energy cost savings and enhancing human health – the City of Winnipeg’s Urban Forestry Branch estimates the value of the City’s urban canopy at more than $3 billion. 

We aim to engage all levels of government to secure long-term, sustained investment in Winnipeg’s urban forest for the long-term. Together, we must rethink funding models for urban forests, reframing urban forests as “infrastructure”, and invest for the long term.

By classifying urban forests as “natural infrastructure”, we encourage governments to assign infrastructure funds for protection, maintenance and replacement of existing trees as well as to expand our urban canopy as a long term, renewable infrastructure investment. Assigning an asset value to public trees, and including urban forests in asset management plans encourages long-term investment when we reframe “trees as infrastructure”.

To preserve urban forests for the benefit of future generations, we call on all levels of government to classify urban trees as essential natural assets and make long term, sustainable natural infrastructure funding available to cities and municipalities for the maintenance, protection and enhancement of our urban canopies.

To Government of Canada:

Canada is one of the few G7 countries that has no national policy or strategy to assist in maintaining, protecting and preserving the nation’s mature urban forests. We call on the federal government to designate urban forests as natural assets, and invest in their maintenance, protection and expansion as follows:

  1. Provide funding for urban forests as essential infrastructure, and require that municipal governments include or be in the process of including natural assets, like urban forests in their asset management plans.
  2. Establish a designated Natural Infrastructure Fund for the protection, maintenance, expansion and diversification of urban forests and other natural assets.
  3. Renew and expand the Disaster Mitigation Adaptation Fund and lower the minimum request for new natural infrastructure projects from $20 million.
  4. Require all federally funded infrastructure projects to include plans for the protection and enhancement of natural assets.
  5. Introduce urban canopy enhancement programs in the Two Billion-Tree Initiative.

To Government of Manitoba:

Urban forests in Manitoba are suffering from similar challenges as Winnipeg’s urban forests. We ask the provincial government to support urban forests as follows:

  1. Declare urban forests essential municipal infrastructure, and treat urban forests as assets;
  2. Include urban forests in provincial green infrastructure, climate change adaptation and carbon-capture funding programs;
  3. Include urban forests in regional planning strategies;
  4. Work with federal and municipal counterparts to invest in urban forests as “infrastructure”.
  5. Investigate how the provincial government might further assist the City Of Winnipeg in the protection and diversification of its urban forest, under the Forest Health Protection Act.

To City of Winnipeg:

Grey Infrastructure, like roads, depreciates over time, while natural infrastructure, like urban forests, increases in value. Roads are eligible for infrastructure funding, and urban forest maintenance and expansion must also be eligible for the long-term benefit of citizens. We ask the City to:

  1. Declare urban forests essential municipal infrastructure, classify urban forests as “assets” and include urban forests in the City’s asset management plan;
  2. Work with provincial and federal funding agencies to identify natural (green) infrastructure funding to sustain and grow our urban canopy;  
  3. Include Urban Forestry in consultations on all public infrastructure planning to ensure tree protection and canopy enhancement;
  4. Prioritize the development and public review of the proposed Tree Protection and Preservation By-law to ensure our canopy is protected and enhanced on both public and private property, treating trees as valuable assets.
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