Fort Saskatchewan is working with the Canadian government to help save urban forests.
On Wednesday (Jan. 4) the city announced that they are one of 54 partners from across the country to join the federal government's '2 Billion Trees Program'.
As a result, Fort Saskatchewan received about $220,000 in funding for the program, while also kicking in $30,000 of its own money, making for a grand total of $250,000 to go toward the program.
Jennelle Hart, the manager of parks services with the city, said this opportunity came up in early 2022.
"We thought this was a great time for us to take a look at our urban forests here in the city," said Hart. "We can look at how we can protect our forests, look at how we can promote mental health and wellbeing, and encourage people to get out and enjoy physical activity."
Right now, the city is looking to bring in a consultant with a background in urban forestry to help develop a plan to most effectively use this money.
"[A consultant will help us] take a look at our assets of what we currently have, areas that we could do more protection, or areas that could be protected from development," said Hart. "We're looking at a public education campaign that will encourage people to take a look at their private properties and what they might be able to do for planting trees or protecting natural trees."
Fort Saskatchewan didn't enter this due to immediate concern for their urban forests but instead wanted to stay ahead of the curve.
"It's something that is coming down through industry just from conversations about the environment in general," said Hart. "The city doesn't currently have a policy or program in place for urban forestry protection which also includes the grasslands."
"With this, we will be able to take a look at our horizon and any new area that we might be developing and take into consideration the terrain that might be there and protecting it."
For the most part, Fort Saskatchewan residents shouldn't expect to see much outright change throughout the community in the immediate future.
"It'll be more of a behind-the-scenes kind of thing," said Hart. "We might see a variety of trees planted rather than looking at the typical trees that we might plant."
This process won't be done by the city itself. Hart says that they are hoping to hear lots from the public and what they want to see done with the urban forests.
"We really want to get the public involved in this project and get a better understanding of how they view the forest, how they use the forest, how they interact or what they would like to see protected."
Work will get started on the project in February and is expected to last until Spring 2024.
More information about the '2 Billion Trees Program' can be found here.