Sackville businessman Kevin Anderson has launched a pilot project to preserve dozens of stately elm trees in southeastern New Brunswick and nearby northern Nova Scotia.
“I’m sticking my neck out a bit here, but it’s worth it to save the trees,” says Anderson, an arborist who owns Woodpecker Tree Care in Sackville.
“I’m hoping I can break even on the project this year at least on costs, but overall, I’m planning on losing money,” he adds.
Anderson explains that it’s now possible to inoculate trees with DutchTrig, an organic vaccine. It protects them from the Dutch elm disease fungus spread by beetles that feed under the bark.
So far, he has spent $1,800 for enough vaccine to preserve about 30 trees and has invested another $3,000 for required training permits and insurance.
“I’m looking for more partners to get involved in the project as well as help pay the costs,” Anderson says, adding that a number of sponsors have already signed up including Mount Allison University, the towns of Sackville and Amherst and the Marshwinds Housing Coop.
Hall’s Tire Muffler and Auto Repair shop in Sackville is sponsoring two of “four beautiful elms” that remain on the grounds of the Drew Nursing Home while homeowners in Coverdale, N.B. and Oxford, N.S. have agreed to pay for protecting trees on their properties.
“There has been huge community support to the point where I’ve had to triple the size of the pilot project,” Anderson says. “People, and businesses, love the idea of being connected to a specific tree through this project.”
He points out that elms need to be inoculated every year to protect them against the disease, so he’s hoping more people will sign up for five-year sponsorships.
He estimates it would cost about $100 per year to protect an average tree with a 200 centimetre circumference, but emphasizes that’s only a preliminary estimate and the true costs will become clearer as his pilot project unfolds.
Anderson is calling the project the Maritime Elm Protection Initiative and is in the process of setting up a website at mepi.ca to spread the word and solicit donations.
He plans to inoculate all 30 trees this year in a single day sometime around June 1st.
Meantime, the city of Fredericton is treating 1,000 elms with DutchTrig this year.
“Fredericton’s example gave me a lot of confidence to go ahead with my own pilot project,”Anderson says.
“I used to tell people with elms, ‘don’t waste your money, they’re all dying,’ but now, it’s finally possible to prevent them from getting the disease.”
He notes though that this could be a long-term project stretching over decades.
“I’d like to protect a number of significant elms in all three Maritime provinces, until the risk for contracting Dutch elm disease is lower,” he says.
“This would allow us to keep and enjoy what we have and provide a new source of elms to regenerate the population.”