Can a new bylaw in Abbotsford persuade people to plant more trees, rather than axe them?

More resources needed, consultant says as work on new plan begins

As work begins on reversing the decline of Abbotsford’s urban forest, those involved will face a paradox.

How, exactly, do you deter property owners from unnecessarily cutting down trees without also discouraging them from planting new ones?

A new bylaw has been on the city’s to-do list for years, and statistics have shown that Abbotsford’s tree canopy has declined considerably in recent years thanks to both winter storms and record development.

Instead of going straight to the bylaw, though, council has told staff to create a comprehensive “urban forestry strategy” to guide all city policies that relate to trees. Work on the strategy recently began and is expected to be finished by next summer. Once the strategy is finished, the city will look to create a new bylaw that will govern when and under what conditions residents can chop down trees.

The current bylaw has been called too permissive by some, including Coun. Patricia Ross. But others, including Coun. Bruce Banman, have warned against imposing too many restrictions on what property owners can do with their own land.

The first work on the strategy, though, was focused, in part, on determining just how well the city is managing its forest.

The answer: Not that great.

RELATED: Abbotsford has lost more than 7% of its tree cover since 2005

RELATED: Read the report that says more can be done to improve Abbotsford’s urban forest

A report by a consulting firm hired to develop the new strategy said the city has improved the planting of trees in streets and parks, is collecting money from developers for trees, and has knowledgeable arborists and an engaged community. But the city was found to not be exercising much control over how its trees grow.

The report also warned that, as Abbotsford’s “urban core densifies, neighbourhoods that have a lot of trees are losing them and zoning will not enable retention.”

The city has rules about tree planting and requires developers to submit their tree-cutting plans and replace, or pay to replace elsewhere, each tree axed, there is little monitoring of what actually takes place.

The report says the city lacks resources to review developers’ tree plans and ensure that builders are doing what they said they would. Because there is no “development arborist” on staff, there is little oversight of whether Abbotsford’s tree protection requirements are being followed, and the city has also had to reduce the number of trees it plants in public areas, because it doesn’t have the resources necessary to maintain them.

Planting on public land may increase in importance because as its inner core densifies, many areas have less room for trees. As land values increase, lots are subdivided, and yards shrink, so too does the space for trees. A recent Metro Vancouver study found that tree cover in neighbourhoods with single-family homes are no longer any greener than areas with apartments and townouses.

So figuring out how to boost the city’s tree cover will be a challenge.

Banman said creating new rules will be like walking a “tight rope” and that a “holistic” solution is needed. He said trees are important, but that landowners also need the ability to remove trees that are dangerous or limiting the use of their properties.

“I think it’s very easy to say, ‘Yep, we don’t have enough trees, let’s plant a whole bunch more, but is that necessarily balancing the needs and livability of the region?”

Coun. Brenda Falk, who runs a garden centre in her private life, said the city has to find a way to eliminate barriers to tree-planting.

“I repeatedly hear the fear that ‘If I plant this, and I want to take it down and I can’t, I don’t want to take it down if it’s going to get to that size,’” Falk said. “I want [the public] to not be afraid of planting trees. I want them to be encouraged to.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Mission principal saves goat, praised as hero by kindergarten students

“Today I get to be the hero in their eyes, changing the world one stuck goat at a time”

Abbotsford man’s murder trial set for January

David Albert Miller charged in death of 52-year-old woman in Kamloops

Snow clearing facts: One fine issued last year for not clearing sidewalks in Abbotsford

City used 3,500 tons of salt last year, paid just 5 cents/pound

Car fire & explosion in Abbotsford believed to be linked to previous arson attempt

Suspects seen pouring gas on car on Mayfair Avenue, in central Abbotsford

Abbotsford Police’s bike squad members redeployed

Squad had been used as reserve manpower for higher-priority areas

VIDEO: UBC students offered $1,000 to help with leaving Hong Kong

The university said 31 of its students were attending four universities in Hong Kong

‘Actors can play any roles’: Debate over ‘colour-blind’ casting after Victoria lawsuit

Tenyjah Indra McKenna filed a complaint over racially-motivated casting

Infants more vulnerable to measles than previously thought: Canadian study

Babies typically don’t receive the measles vaccine until they are 12 months old

Shatner, Obomsawin among 39 inductees to Order of Canada today

Shatner is being given one of Canada’s highest civilian honours for his 60-year career

VIDEO: One man dead after early morning house fire in Langley

Two other people were sent to hospital with injuries

John Mann, singer and songwriter of group Spirit of the West dead at 57

Mann died peacefully in Vancouver on Wednesday from early onset Alzheimer’s

Teacher tells B.C. Supreme Court that student was ‘happy’ to watch smudging ceremony in classroom

Case being heard in Nanaimo over indigenous cultural practice in Port Alberni classroom

Most Read