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Edmonton tree inventory shows almost $2.7B in 'green infrastructure'

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It's east Edmonton's turn again.

The city maintains an inventory of all trees growing on or along city-owned boulevards, roadways and parks. This accounts for about 380,000 trees of the city's estimated 12.8 million.

City crews update this inventory over the course of two years, canvassing one half of the city's canopy one year – as they will do in the east this year – and the other half the next, recording the health and growth of each of the 380,000.

The data are used in a number of ways, including the city plan, which maps out how Edmonton can grow into a bigger and better city.

One of the most interesting pieces of information produced by this data collection is the value of the city's trees: In spring of 2020, all of the trees in Edmonton had a collective asset value of almost $2.7 billion.

"We look at trees as our green infrastructure, the same way as you would look at a light pole, a sidewalk, (or a) road," explained Jacqueline Butler, the city's project forestry leader, in a recent interview.

The city calculates the monetary value of a tree with an industry formula that takes into account the costs that would be incurred if it needed to be replaced, as well as its size and health.

Butler showed CTV News Edmonton an American elm in Rossdale, near 102 Street and 97 Avenue NW, that is estimated to be as old as the neighbourhood – around 100 years – and is one of Edmonton's highest valued trees at $81,127.69.

The highest-valued tree is a laurel leaf willow on Mackenzie Drive NW near 95 Avenue NW whose value in 2020 was $109,552.39. It is 1.74 metres in diameter at breast height.

A chart from the City of Edmonton showing some of the city's most highly valued trees. (Source: City of Edmonton)Occasionally, these dollar amounts will be posted on a tree.

Butler said Edmonton does this to help encourage citizens or nearby workers to think about its value.

"There's lots of talk about social, economic values – how they help carbon sequestration, beautification, the habitats," she said.

"It gives people an idea for value other than the eco benefits that everybody knows about."

The formula is also used to calculate what a person or company that damages a tree could be on the hook for.

"When we get trees this big, they're not replaceable in our lifetime, so it's very important to have programs available like the public tree bylaw and protection requirements around our mature canopy," Butler said.

Edmonton has a goal of planting two million trees to reach 20 per cent forest canopy coverage by 2071.

According to Butler, the city has one of the world's largest elm forests unaffected by Dutch elm disease.

More tree data is available online.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Evan Klippenstein and Kyra Markov

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