City and federal government invest in Edmonton’s green future

Edmonton is a city full of trees. Whether it’s the river valley, natural areas, the mature trees that line neighbourhood streets or naturalized areas around our stormwater management facilities, the City is committed to growing its urban forest.

As more and more people call Edmonton home, the City is committed to planting two million new urban trees over the next eight years. A major step toward keeping that promise was taken on July 24, 2023 as Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced a $47.8 million investment, matching identical federal funding in the Urban Tree City Plan.

“Expanding Edmonton’s tree canopy is a way to help us maintain welcoming and livable communities as we grow to be a city of more than two million people,” Mayor Sohi said. 

“This grant will allow us to expand our planting efforts over the next eight years, and bring us closer to our goals of being a healthy and climate-resilient city.”

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and Councillor Jo-Anne Wright take part in a planting activity after announcing an investment in Edmonton’s urban forest.

The City currently maintains an inventory of 397,000 trees on City-owned boulevard and open space trees, more than 2,500 hectares of natural area tree stands and 1,000 hectares of naturalized areas.

Naturalization is the process of converting a manicured or maintained landscape into a self-sustaining natural landscape, while natural areas refer to existing landscapes that embody various ecological systems, such as grasslands, wetlands, tree stands, ravines, or river valleys. 

Adding two million new trees in eight years is no small feat—that’s like planting two trees for every person who currently lives in Edmonton. So, how will the City achieve this? The answer is through naturalization, planting new boulevard and open space trees and replacing City-maintained trees that have died. 

The City’s portion of this investment comes from approved capital budget funding of approximately $66 million allocated to  the City Plan’s Greener as We Grow initiative. The City Plan maps out how the City will grow over the next three decades. 

Using these funds, from 2022 to 2030, the City of Edmonton will plant more than two million trees and shrubs over 300 hectares of naturalization areas across the City. Additionally, the City will plant approximately 8,700 net new boulevard and open space trees and 22,552 additional replacement trees over and above its annual tree replacement program.

Managing Edmonton’s tree canopy

Edmonton’s urban forest improves our city’s air quality, reduces energy consumption, preserves soils, maintains ecological connectivity, promotes biodiversity, keeps the streetscape cool and conserves water resources.

“Trees are an important part of how people experience life in Edmonton,” Mayor Sohi says. “Trees help clean our air, shade our streets, and shape some of our most beloved public spaces.”

Planning for 2 million more trees

A lot of planning goes into making sure trees are planted in the right place, in order to provide the most benefits to the environment, infrastructure and Edmontonians. 

“We want to plant the right trees in the right spaces,” Project Manager Natalie Guillard says. 

“We are conducting a spatial analysis of the 15 City Planning Districts that will help identify optimal locations on City-owned property for planting new boulevard and open space trees as well as naturalization restoration and reclamation work. We are using Geographic Information System (GIS) Mapping and City data to help with the analysis.”

GIS is a tool for gathering, managing and analyzing geographical data. It analyzes spatial location and organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes. The City is utilizing this tool to make sure the right kind of trees and naturalization are planted in the right locations. 

Before and after naturalization planting along 91 Street in south Edmonton.


Naturalization is an ecologically-based approach to landscape management that transforms maintained or manicured space to a more natural state. The goal of this work is to establish a more naturally functioning plant community, whether starting fresh on a new development, enhancing a natural area or shifting a site away from being highly manicured or maintained. The new plant community may include a mix of grasses, trees, shrubs and other plants suited to the site.

Naturalization work occurs in areas such as: municipal parks, along roadsides, around stormwater management facilities and along utility corridors. This type of planting allows for community involvement through the Root for Trees program, which is a volunteer-based tree-planting initiative that plants more than 25,000 seedlings, shrubs and wildflowers per year. For information on how to volunteer, please visit Root for Trees. City crews and contractors also complete naturalization planting.

Boulevard and open space tree planting

Boulevard and open space trees are maintained trees growing on City-owned properties such as boulevards, medians and open space parks. Trees planted in natural areas or in a naturalized site are not included in this definition and would be part of naturalization or natural areas.

An example of open space tree planting in Edmonton.

Maintaining the urban forest through renewal

Until now, due to limited available funding, the City has not been able to replace a backlog of trees that have died from natural or other causes. With this new funding, the City will be able to catch up on the backlog of dead trees and vacant tree spots, as well as replace trees that die each year.

“As trees die or require removal, it is critical to replace them to continue to maintain the urban canopy cover and its health,” Urban Forester Erin Belva says. 

“A sustainable and resilient urban forest is at the heart of Edmonton’s many strategic plans, policies and programs.”

Currently, the City of Edmonton’s urban forest has a monetary asset value of approximately $2.7 billion.

The trees planted as part of this two million target are estimated to increase the monetary ecosystem benefits provided by the urban forest by approximately 15 per cent as they mature.

Editor’s note: the picture at the top of the post shows Councillor Ashley Salvador, left, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, and Councillor Jo-Anne Wright at Strathearn Drive Lookout on July 24, 2023.