SOS Elms Coalition

SOS Elms News

Newsletter No. 24

December 2010

NEW! This newsletter can be downloaded as a PDF file here.

What’s Inside:

President’s Report
2010 Saskatchewan Dutch Elm Disease Report
STOPDED- Keeping Alberta DED Free
S.P.L.I.T. Report

ISA Conference 2010, Saskatoon
Letter from Costa Rica
Urban Feral or Country Wild: Looking at Both Sides of the Same Picture
SOS Elms Board



I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.

~Ogden Nash, "Song of the Open Road," 1933



Presidentís Report

By Doug Mitchell

Hello and best wishes to all our loyal and supportive members. It’s been another difficult yet productive and interesting year for the SOS Elms Coalition. The Government of Saskatchewan again refused funding for our Coalition. Even worse, in late March 2010 they attempted to delete the entire budget ($500,000) of the provincial DED (Dutch Elm Disease) Program. Protests forced them to reconsider, but they reinstated only 20% of the previous amount. The drastic cut means that jobs have been lost and much previous progress will be negated. If the Government continues to ignore the obvious risks of their action DED may soon get out of hand. The cost of removal and disposal will be many times more than the small saving they might have made this year.

SOS Elms reacted quickly and decisively to protest the cut and to have it reversed. Founding member Richard Kerbes and I went “live” with Garth Materie on CBC Radio’s “Blue Sky” noon call-in show. We pointed out to Mr. Materie and the CBC listeners the dangers of the cut. We were delighted that every one of the people who called in agreed with our position. We also sent a well crafted articulate letter of protest to the Premier, with copies to the Minister of Environment and every MLA. Sadly only the Premier and less than a dozen MLAs acknowledged or responded - not an encouraging reflection on how seriously they take this issue…

To help compensate for the lack of provincial funding, we had another Garage Sale, raising $1,500. Many thanks are due to all members who contributed “treasures” and otherwise assisted with the sale. This has become an annual event and next year’s will be even better!

In March SOS Elms was again at Saskatoon’s Gardenscape the Outdoor Living Show. Many thanks go to the members who worked at our booth. It is a way to do your part to promote the care and appreciation of our urban forests. Don’t forget, we will be at Gardenscape again in 2011, and volunteers get free admission to the show!

In 2010 we received $500 from Saskatchewan Eco Network to assist with production of a revised and updated brochure to promote our Coalition. We continue to discuss the possibility of going door to door in older neighbourhoods to distribute the brochure and other DED information. If you have ideas on this, please call our Secretary, Rae Hearn at 244-3082.

This fall I had the distinct pleasure of representing SOS Elms at a first time event on the U. of S. Campus. The three year old School of Environment and Sustainability graduated their first Masters Program students this year. This event, called SENS Connect, was organized by the Graduate Students’ Association. It was an “Eco Trade Fair”, with displays and information by participating environmental organizations. Each group also spoke with this year’s graduating class, which came from all around world and across Canada.

We continued our long time partnership with Students Plant Legacy In Trees (SPLIT) in 2010 with a project at St. Michael Community School. We are proud to have contributed $4,000 to be used for watering the installation. Congratulations to Batting 1000 Young Advisory Council, the Saskatoon Community Foundation, and Urban Forestry - your efforts have reaped a wonderful harvest!

SOS Elms has a responsibility to address citizen concerns for American elms and DED in community forests across Saskatchewan. For example, during the CBC call-in show, three individuals expressed concern for American Elms in the Outlook area. Your Executive is investigating how we can be more involved with communities outside Saskatoon. Please feel free to contact us if you have any ideas or concernsin this regard.

The Gathercole Elms continued to be a focus of concern for us in Saskatoon. Last year Cliff Speer addressed City Council on our behalf, and this fall a number of our Board Members appeared at Ward meetings to question the Mayor, Council members, and City officials. As reported in our previous newsletters going back to 2004, SOS Elms has lobbied to preserve the beautiful mature American elms on the Gathercole site. A 2.43 acre parcel, designated Parcel Y, it is part of the South Downtown - River Landing development project.

The trees are still standing, tall and healthy, thanks in large part to our efforts as well as the Urban Forestry Department. It has established the monetary value of the trees and has ensured their care and protection during the demolition of the Gathercole building and subsequent activities in the area for the past five years. Although the City and MVA officials have approved a $200 Million condo and hotel project which will scarify the site, at least they have assured us that the Gathercole elms will not be removed until the chosen “developer” has met all financial commitments. Now, after over five years and repeated failures by two companies to meet deadlines to begin the project, a third company has emerged.

On December 2, 2010, barely meeting another “final” deadline, Dr. Karim Nasser of Victory Major Investments Corp. delivered the balance owing, $4.9 Million, to the City for purchase of Parcel Y. For a total of $5.24 Million Dr. Nasser has purchased a property which currently has an appraised market value of $11 million. Construction of the project is to begin in the Spring, and the future of the Gathercole elms looks hopeless.

Nevertheless, given how this so-called “development process” has been so protracted and counter productive, there is no guarantee that this latest proponent will succeed. Your SOS Elms board firmly believes that development for development’s sake is not what Saskatoon needs nor deserves. We will continue to fight for the preservation of these 80 year old elms that could survive to be 200.

Your Executive and I personally thank you for your continued support, and we invite your input into specific issues such as the Gathercole elms. Together we have been able to accomplish a great deal and I look forward to continuing to do so in the future.

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2010 Saskatchewan DED Report

By Jeffery Gooliaff
Insect & Disease Operations Supervisor
Forest Service, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, Prince Albert,SK
306.953.2987, cell: 306.961.1650

A total of 126 trees were diagnosed with DED in the 6 buffer zones surveyed by the Ministry of Environment: Regina Buffer = 15, Moose Jaw Buffer = 21, Tisdale Buffer = 1, Estevan = 2, Fort Qu’Appelle Buffer = 65, Indian Head Buffer = 22. Landowners are responsible for removal of all DED infected elms and have been notified that elms on their properties with DED symptoms have been marked. Ministry officials will be conducting field audits to ensure all infected elms will be removed in the buffer zones during this winter. As well, 101 elms were marked for removal in Echo Valley (100) and Katepwa Point Provincial Parks (1). The Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture, and Sport will remove these infected trees this winter.

In 2010 Regina had 4 confirmed DED cases, while Moose Jaw, Weyburn and Estevan did not have any. Saskatoon, Prince Albert, North Battleford, Swift Current, and Melfort continue to be DED-free. There were no new communities in Saskatchewan with confirmed cases of DED in 2010. The Ministry of Environment continued to operate the DED information telephone line, to provide any technical expertise/training requested by municipalities or the public, and to trap and monitor the movements of banded elm bark beetles. The Forest Service thanks SOS Elms for continued support in battling DED!

For more information about the Ministry's DED management program please contact Jeff Gooliaff (306-953-2987) or

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STOPDED – Keeping Alberta DED-Free

Last spring STOPDED (The Society to Prevent Dutch Elm Disease) assisted SOS Elms in opposing the Saskatchewan DED program cuts. While SOS Elms is a coalition of citizens with a volunteer board, no office, no paid staff, and no on-going government support, STOPDED has staff funded by the Alberta government. That is ironic because DED has been a serious problem in Saskatchewan for almost 20 years while DED has been reported only once in Alberta. Janet Feddes-Calpas, STOPDED Executive Director, has provided the following information:

Alberta has the largest DED-free American elm stands in the world, even though the disease is prevalent in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Montana, A total of 219,334 elms, worth $634 million, grow in Alberta's urban areas. Alberta has been fortunate to remain DED free for many years. However, in 1998 one elm tree in Wainwright was confirmed to have disease. The tree was immediately removed and burned. It is believed that firewood brought into the province was the source of infection. Alberta is still DED-free. The European elm bark beetle which can carry the DED fungus has been found in many communities throughout the province.

STOPDED is determined to resist the spread of this devastating disease into Alberta. The program is administered and operated by STOPDED and funded by four agencies of the Alberta provincial government: Sustainable Resources (Forestry based), Municipal Affairs (majority of elm grow in municipalities), Tourism, Parks and Recreation (lots of elms in Provincial parks and tourists tend to carry firewood) and Alberta Agriculture (DED is listed under their act and there are a lot of elm shelter belts in farming areas). Alberta Agriculture provides STOPDED with an office, hotline phone, photo copier, printers and paper. Check out the "Last Stand" video and more information on the STOPDED web

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S.P.L.I.T. Report

By Terri Smith
Saskatoon Urban Forestry Branch

St. Michael’s Community School participated in SPLIT (Students Plant a Legacy in Trees) 2010. The students transformed their schoolyard from a barren treeless field to a fruitful green space that now provides them with a healthy place to play and learn about nature. St. Michael’s school chose to focus on planting fruit producing shrubs, trees and vines and incorporating a Medicine Wheel into their landscape design. Their schoolyard is now an oasis of Colorado blue spruce, large American elm (transplanted with the help of B & B Tree Service), cherry trees, plum trees, grape vines, haskaps (an exciting new fruit for Western Canada), Saskatoon shrubs and cranberry bushes. In 2011 the Urban Forestry Department, along with the Riversdale Kiwanis Club will introduce the SPLIT program to Holliston School, which will be the ninth school to participate in this program since it began in 2002.

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ISA Conference, Saskatoon 2010

By Geoff McLeod
Saskatoon Urban Forestry Branch

The ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) in partnership with the City of Saskatoon hosted the 2010 ISA Prairie Chapter Conference at the Delta Bessborough Hotel, from September 29th to October 1st. The ISA is a scientific and educational organization fostering a greater appreciation of trees. The theme for this year's conference was "Bridging People and Trees" and the focus was on the connection between people and trees within the urban environment. Approximately 200 arborists, architects, engineers, planners and politicians attended the conference for an opportunity to share information and develop more effective urban forestry management plans. Events included on-site competitions of tree climbing and other skills used by arborists.

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Letter from Costa Rica

By Linda Moskalyk

Last spring, Linda Moskalyk, Arborist, Artist, and valuable SOS Elms board member, embarked on a one year adventure in Central America to work for nature conservation. She is keeping in touch via the internet – go to and her blog - the following is a recent letter from her:

Greetings to all SOS Elms members! I am experiencing a unique opportunity working in a volunteer position at a nature reserve in Costa Rica for one year.  My location is up in the Talamanca mountain range in the south of the country at the Cloudbridge Reserve.  Unfortunately I can’t fulfill my duties with SOS Elms Coalition for this season but I know that the responsibilities for protecting our elm forest are in good hands. Protecting the rainforests seems like a daunting task. The reserve is about research and education. The more we know about the ecosystems of the forest and can teach others about the significance of the rainforests the easier it is to take steps to preserve them.  The Cloudbridge reserve hosts researchers from around the world.  Many volunteers and school groups come here to hike the trails and learn about the flora and fauna of the area. The reserve is always looking for more volunteers and researchers and I highly recommend the experience.

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Urban Feral or Country Wild: Looking at Both Sides of the Same Picture

Story & Photos by Cliff SpeerFeral Elms

I was told I needed to redeem myself after making disparaging remarks about my urban forest in the last newsletter, so here goes.

A friend, who had recently visited my place for the first time, later remarked on the look of my yard, which, of course, is mostly trees. The word she used was feral. I hadn't heard that descriptor before in reference to my yard, so I had to give it some serious thought. I pondered and realized that despite the pejorative connotation, it was in truth an astute observation!

When you think about it, it's not really a large leap to go from urban feral to country wild. So, here's the redeeming aspect of the whole thing. My cursed urban forest which I had previously described (tongue in cheek) with all its nuisances - the sappy poplars running rampant through yard and garden, the elms showering down their semi-annual blanket of seeds and leaves, etc. - is really just a small piece of wilderness in the city. What a divine thought! But wait a this beginning to sound too much like a convenient rationalization?

If so, here's what inspired my rationalization. For several years, I have been leading fall hikes for the Nordic Ski Club. Recently, I had ventured into what was "uncharted" territory for the Club, to scout some new hiking routes. Not far from Saskatoon to the northeast are the Minichinas Hills and they were beckoning. This fascinating landscape pitches and rolls with awe-inspiring lookouts on the hilltops and small spring-fed lakes and sloughs in the hollows. In between the lookouts and the lakes are pockets of "feral" forest and wild land that may have been untouched since the last ice-age.

It occurred to me that these pockets of feral forest offer a blessed connection between city and country. Figuratively speaking, in the concept of an urban forest, we've transplanted the wild, untamed natural forest into the urban environment because in an elemental sense it is part of us and a vital link to our primitive heritage. When I have an encounter with the natural forest as I do when hiking in the Minichinas Hills, I have a yearning to replicate that feeling back in the city. I have a need to alleviate the barrenness of the "concrete jungle" with the healing power of the forest. I grant that the natural has been pretty well domesticated in its urban setting, but there are some exceptions - apparently my yard being one of them!

But this is probably getting way too philosophical just to make amends for formerly badmouthing the urban forest! However, should anyone describe your corner of the urban forest as feral, you shouldn't be miffed. It really is a compliment in disguise. We need the forest to feel at home and the more wild and untamed, the closer we get to our roots. So, I'll stop complaining about the curse of my urban forest and try to remember where it really came from. And that is a comforting thought!

group of seven

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SOS Elms Coalition Inc. Board of Directors

President: Doug Mitchell
Vice-President: Linda Moskalyk
Treasurer: Cliff Speer
Secretary: Rae Hearn
Membership: Rae Hearn
Web Site: Paddy Tutty
Newsletter: Richard Kerbes

This newsletter edited by Richard Kerbes and Kathy Meeres.

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