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New problems, old solutions: Horses are hauling infected trees out of Mount Royal woods
The city of Montreal is getting back to tradition to try and solve a major problem.
It's cutting down 4,000 trees infected with the emerald ash borer and is using Belgian draft horses to help haul them out of the woods.
“At home, we (use horses to) move wood and give sleigh rides in sugar shacks,” said Leo Brisebois of Brisco Stables in Prevost.
Two of Brisebois’s horses are now working on a city contract helping to clear the infected trees from Mount Royal.
The horses, Daniel and Jack, have shelter, warm coats and plenty of food to eat as they take turns, for about two hours at a time, pulling logs from the woods, taking many breaks throughout.
It’s an old-fashioned technique that’s ideal for the mountain's delicate ecosystem.
“Horses cause less damage to the ground and surroundings” than heavy machines, he said.
It’s an important job: the invasive beetle eats ash trees from the inside out, killing them.
In July, the city did an inventory of the mountain and found that 10,000 trees had the bug. Of those, 6,000 were treated and saved, but the 4,000 others need to be cut down, explained forestry engineer Guillaume Couture.
Over eight days, the horses will remove around 200 of them.
The pilot project was launched to protect the forest and wildlife in environmentally sensitive areas of the mountain, said city tree inspector Daniel Pilot.
Horses are less likely to damage tree trunks and there's no risk of spilling gasoline or oil.
“We did talk with the SPCA, so we did a lot of searching before saying yes to it. It's a pilot, turns out that it's working very well,” said Mayor Valerie Plante.
The work has to be completed by the end of the month, before nesting season begins.