Urban Forests are Valuable

Urban trees, whether located along a street or in a park, keep cities cooler, reduce air pollution, manage stormwater runoff, and provide wildlife corridors. They’re good for our physical and mental health and provide a better quality of life and community cohesion.

A Few Special Forests

Assiniboine Forest, Winnipeg: Plans to develop the area now known as the Assiniboine Forest were put on hold due to the 1929 stock market crash. In 1973, in response to public pressure, it received permanent protection from development and is now one of Canada’s largest natural urban parks. An all-weather nature trail leads to an observation area overlooking the pond and the forest is inhabited by a herd of white-tailed deer as well as beavers, weasels, eastern screech owl, spotted sandpiper, ruby-throated hummingbird, and common nighthawk.

Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area, Saskatoon: Originally intended to be part of a greenbelt around the City of Saskatoon, the 660-acre site was planted with over 30,000 drought-resistant trees. Along with the George Genereux Urban Regional Park, it is part of the West Swale and forms a wildlife corridor from the area north of Saskatchewan Highway 7 through to Chappell Marsh.

Stanley Park, Vancouver: Established in 1888, the park is a 400-hectare West Coast natural rainforest, much loved by residents and visitors to Vancouver. A windstorm in 2006 levelled 41 hectares of forest, but financial and in-kind support made the $10-million restoration project achievable. 15,000 new trees and shrubs were planted in the blow-down areas with volunteers of all ages helping to plant seedlings.

Garry Oaks Ecosystems: Found primarily on the southeast coast of Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands (as well as two small areas in the Fraser River Valley), the Garry Oak landscape incorporates open woodlands, grassy meadows, and rocky outcrops. The Garry Oak is the only native oak west of Manitoba and thrives within a very narrow climatic zone with mild winters and dry summers. The grassy meadows are a carpet of colour in the spring when fawn lilies, blue camas, and yellow western buttercups are flowering. You can find a list of sites to visit on the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team website.

Not-For-Profit Organizations Protecting Urban Forests

Green Timbers Heritage Society: This Surrey, BC, non-profit was formed in 1987 to stop the forest from becoming a football stadium. They offer guided walks of Green Timbers Urban Forest and support a youth habitat restoration program.

Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas Inc: The Friends work to protect and conserve important wildlife habitat and greenspace on two large blocks of land on the western edge of Saskatoon that are increasingly surrounded by neighbourhood developments. The Friends are involved in advocacy, educational programs, and clean-ups.

SOS Trees Coalition: This Saskatoon-based organization advocates for responsible management and bylaw protection of urban trees and promotes public understanding and appreciation of the urban forest.

Trees Please Winnipeg: The coalition represents citizens from Winnipeg neighbourhoods, residents’ associations, and various organizations working together to call attention to the urban forest crisis and the need for sustainable investment strategies for urban forests. Don’t miss the tree stories – a giant cottonwood on Middle Gate, halting development in Bois-des-Esprits forest, and growing an urban orchard.

Trees Winnipeg: The non-profit charity is dedicated to promoting the benefits of and concerns about trees in Winnipeg's urban areas, focusing on tree diversity and care. They promote awareness of the value of urban forests and educate the public on the protection of urban trees.

Urban Tree Tours

Moose Jaw: Every year, residents are invited to nominate a Tree of Significance in honour of National Tree Day.

Saskatoon: Developed by the SOS Tree Coalition, the Saskatoon Tree Tour booklet lists 24 trees with photographs, maps, and background information.

Kamloops: The City of Kamloops has developed a self-guided tour of 20 unique and remarkable trees throughout the city.

2022 Arbor Day Celebrations

2022 is the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day, an international event dedicated to planting, nurturing, and celebrating trees. Here are some of the events planned for this year.

Alberta Forest Week & Arbor Day – Celebrated during the first full week of May, the website for Forest Week provides a variety of educational resources and activity ideas.

Edmonton, May 6 – Edmonton has been celebrating Arbor Day since 1893. This year’s activities will include virtual activities and videos.

Saskatoon, May 21-29 – SOS Trees Coalition is hosting walks, painting & photography, stories, talks, and tree planting.

Saskatchewan – Check for events organized by Nature Regina and the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association.

Morden, June 12 – Crafts, wood-carving demos, tree rides, and an art contest.

Winnipeg – Trees Winnipeg normally hosts Arbor Day activities, including tree climbing and a zip line.

What Did We Miss?

Please tell us about your favorite urban forest, tree protection organization, tree tour or celebration. We’d be delighted to add them to the list.

Additional Information

Vancouver Tree Book (includes descriptions and 10 tree tour maps)

Urban Forests and Climate Change

Growing Forests in a City

Metro Vancouver’s Urban Forest Climate Adaptation Initiative

Compendium of Best Urban Forest Management Practices

See Also

Orchids of Western Canada

They Grow Where No Other Tree Can - Canada's Limber and Whitebark Pines

Visit BC’s Desert Country


Nature Companion, a free app/website introducing many of the plants and animals found in Canada’s four western provinces

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/apmckinlay/52044013245/

Updated October 26, 2022

EcoFriendly West informs and encourages initiatives that support Western Canada’s natural environment. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe by email.