Abbotsford council has adopted a draft strategy that lays out five goals and 55 “action items” to protect and enhance the city’s urban forests over the next 25 years.
The draft Urban Forest Strategy was approved by council at its meeting on Monday (June 14) and will now proceed to the public-consultation phase.
The strategy was identified in council’s 2019-22 strategic plan as a priority project at a cost of $125,000 – approved in the city’s financial plan.
The five goals of the strategy are to plan, preserve, manage, grow and partner.
Among the steps listed within those goals are:
• to maintain the city’s “canopy cover” at 45 per cent by 2045 (excluding agricultural land);
• protect “significant” stands of trees;
• increase city tree-planting in areas with low canopy cover;
• strengthen tree protection;
• require more tree retention and replacement across all types of development; and
• explore ways to provide grants to encourage tree-planting and tree care on private land
“Abbotsford’s urban forest is highly valued by the community, particularly for providing clean air and water, providing shade and beautifying the city,” the draft strategy states.
The report indicates that the city’s canopy cover, excluding agricultural land, declined from 47 per cent to 40 per cent between 1994 and 2017.
The report states that the loss can be related to forest land being developed into residential neighbourhoods such as in the Whatcom and McKee areas.
It can also be attributed to clearing for forestry and mining – such as on Sumas Mountain – and agriculture.
In Abbotsford, 85 per cent of urban forest canopy is under private ownership, according to the draft strategy.
“The city influences the private urban forest by regulating tree removal and replacement during the development process, and through educating and partnering with the public and stewardship groups to foster urban forest stewardship.”
Coun. Patricia Ross, speaking at Monday’s meeting, thanked city staff for compiling the comprehensive report.
“I think they’ve done just a great job of looking at the benefits of trees, not just to the environment or health, but to community and social aspects, so I’m very much looking forward to the public telling us what they think – what their ideas are,” she said.
But Mayor Henry Braun cautioned that implementing some of the steps listed in the Urban Forest Strategy will result in “considerable funding requests.”
He said that funding will have to be taken into consideration along with other big projects in Abbotsford over the next five years, including a new police building and overpasses related to freeway widening.
“We can’t do it all. We have to do it in bite-sized chunks. I just want to state for the record that we’re not just signing a blank cheque by the approval (of the draft Urban Forest Strategy), but we are indicating to staff we want to see the implementation part,” Braun said.
“There will be struggles for council – not only this council, but the next council – in how some of this work will be funded.”
The public-consultation process will include a virtual open house and question-and-answer session on July 14 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
The strategy and supporting documents are also available for comment online at letstalkabbotsford.ca, where a survey is being conducted until July 23. Registration for the open house can also be done through that web page.