Media Release

Citizens defend their urban forest

Tree Planting

(May 21, 2013, York Region, ON – For immediate release) As the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) spreads through the 700,000 ash trees in urban areas across York Region, LEAF is playing an important role in the response to this invasive pest. The Backyard Tree Planting Program gives citizens an opportunity to help preserve the canopy by planting a variety of native trees around their homes.

“The best response to EAB is to plant trees in your yard. Even if you don’t have an ash tree directly on your property,” said Janet McKay, Executive Director at LEAF.  

LEAF’s subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program includes a consultation with a certified arborist to help select the appropriate species and location, planting and a care guide. The program also offers extended care packages that will help newly planted trees reach maturity.

A hardy, fast-growing species, ash was a common choice for landscapers and homeowners, but many neighbourhoods with high concentrations of the species are now faced with devastating losses. By encouraging a wide range of appropriate species, LEAF and York Region hope to strengthen the resilience of the urban forest and avoid a similar fate in the future.

“This is not something we want to see again. Maintaining a healthy canopy offers financial, health, and environmental benefits for us all,” continued McKay. “We need to work together to defend this shared resource – on our own property and in our communities.”

Healthy urban trees provide preventative health care benefits through shade, filtered air, cleaner waterways, and reduced smog. When planted strategically, they reduce energy costs, increase property value and offer privacy. Trees also provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, supporting our urban ecosystems.

In North America, EAB was initially discovered in Michigan and southwest Ontario in 2002. In 2008 infestations were found in York Region. The invasive pest tunnels underneath the bark, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients and killing the tree within a few years. There is a treatment derived from the neem tree that may be effective in certain circumstances. 

Along with planting trees, LEAF helps residents identify ash trees, find the signs of EAB infestation, and determine if treatment is an option. They are also seeking volunteers for their EAB Ambassador Program. Ambassadors receive training so that they can share information about the pest, tree planting programs and what people can do for York Region’s urban forest.

On Wednesday, May 29 LEAF will join York Region for an EAB Information Night from 7:00-9:00PM at the York Region Administrative Centre (17250 Yonge Street, Newmarket). The event will cover:

  • How Emerald Ash Borer affects you
  • How you can protect your trees
  • Tree planting programs and resources

On Sunday, June 23 LEAF will host an EAB Ambassador Training Workshop at the York Region Administrative Centre (17250 Yonge Street, Newmarket). To register for this workshop, sign up to become an EAB Ambassador, or plant a tree, residents across York Region can visit or call 416-413-9244.



LEAF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest and engages citizens in urban forest stewardship through planting, education and training. Since 1996 LEAF has helped citizens plant over 19,000 native trees and shrubs in their neighbourhoods. Native and edible garden kits are also available through the program. LEAF is supported by York Region, Markham’s Trees for Tomorrow Fund and Ontario Power Generation.


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