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

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:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother missing for four weeks

The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)
Truck driver charged in Coquihalla crash showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives’: Crown

Despite already having brake issues, Roy McCormack tackled the steepest hill on the infamous highway

Abbotsford International Airport. Black Press file photo.
Abbotsford Airport had 4th highest traffic in Canada in 2020, and its number are down

Statistics Canada report describes a ‘devastating year’ for air travel

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read