Canadian Urban Forest Network: Prairies Region Update 2019

Gerard Fournier

Happy midsummer solstice, to everyone on the Druid calendar!

As I am writing this, I am looking out the windows of my office at my tree nursery near Didsbury, Alberta at trees still being buffeted by gale force winds after a 24-hour June monsoon has dropped about 50 mm of rain on us since about this time yesterday. For those of us in still parched regions of the country, I wish you could share in our moisture bounty!

For arborists and urban foresters in our region, this spring has already brought us the legacy of a hard winter on the Prairies, with much winter burn on evergreens and dieback on our fruit trees and half-hardy shrubs. Storms and a plethora of insects are now here to keep us busy, with sightings and reports of forest tent caterpillars, satin moth, elm scale, birch leaf miner and many different borers throughout the region. Misdiagnosis and poor tree advice is all too commonplace in our communities this time of year. Much could be done to raise the profile of the professional arborist in our Prairie towns and cities, where our trees and green infrastructure are so costly and valuable.

The City of Winnipeg continues to do battle against the emerald ash borer, with over 11,000 removals being considered this year, and has put out an RFP earlier this year for consulting services for the creation of a comprehensive Urban Forest Strategy (closed April 18). All this while rumors swirl of heavy budget cuts in many other cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina. Urban foresters in these cities, and perhaps even more so in the smaller centres, face these budget challenges along with everything else the urban forest can throw at them and deserve our support and respect at this difficult time. Much like the tax on carbon, everyone seems to recognize the value of green infrastructure these days, but nobody really wants to pay for it!

With some help from the Canadian Urban Forest Network and our founding organization, Tree Canada, the International Society of Arboriculture, Prairie Chapter, is pleased to announce an Educational Workshop opportunity this August 27 at the Ralph Klein Park Environmental Education Center in Calgary, entitled Your Best Defence is a Good Offence.

Speakers include:

  • Michael Rosen from Tree Canada speak about “Urban Forestry: The Big Picture”;
  • Ryan Longo from BioForest will provide an EAB update on sampling, trapping and injections;
  • Andrea Sawatzky from Health Canada will talk about Pesticide Re-evaluation for Urban Forestry;
  • Bob Ermter, who many will remember as one of our veteran authorities on tree fertility and hydration requirements in Alberta, will be sharing his expertise and vast experience on those topics, and;
  • Jacquie Randle, the ever-popular author and intrepid arborist, will enlighten us on how to “Know our Enemy” with a talk on insects in the morning and tree diseases in the afternoon.

Don’t miss this ISA CEU and Alberta Pesticide Applicator CEU filled opportunity! And many thanks to our other sponsors for this event, the City of Calgary, the Prairie Chapter and BioForest.

Only a few days before the workshop is another landmark event in the Prairie Region, the Prairie Chapter Tree Climbing Championship, happening August 24 and 25 at Kinsmen Park in Lethbridge, Alberta. I encourage everyone involved in arboriculture in the Prairie provinces to send their best climbers, come for the competition and stay for the workshop. It will be an action-packed week!

Later in the autumn, we can also anticipate:

  • the Annual ISA Prairie Chapter conference, dates and location still to be determined;
  • the Saskatchewan Green Trades Conference, November 8th and 9th, at the Saskatoon Inn, and;
  • the Landscape Alberta Green Industry Show, November 14th and 15th in Calgary.
  • (The Manitoba Grow Conference was held on February 13th, earlier this year.)

There are also a few excellent private training companies, consultants and associations that are active in the Prairies, notably Arboriculture Canada Training and Education and the Woodland Trainers Association to name two.

In addition to these great training opportunities, Olds College  continues to offer some of the best horticultural and arborist instruction in Canada, including the Horticulture Technologist Diploma program, the Arboriculture Technician Certificate program and the Red Sealed Trade of the Landscape Horticulturist. Did you know that the government of Saskatchewan will support Saskatchewan apprentices who wish to take their technical training at Olds College? They have been doing this for many years now. Apprenticeship remains the best and most economical means of attaining a quality education for workers. It is great to see provinces that support our green industries. Of course, it would be even better if more provinces supported a trade specifically for arborists and urban forest technicians, now, wouldn’t it? We are working on it, stay tuned!

If anyone wishes to contact me directly or has any useful information to share about Urban Forestry and Arboriculture in our region, please feel free to email me at any of my email addresses:; or

Thanks, and have a great summer!


Back to all articles