COLUMN: Look to innovation, not conflict

At a heated community meeting last week, in which residents and land owners on Sumas Mountain made quite clear to city council ...

COLUMN: Look to innovation, not conflict

At a heated community meeting last week, in which residents and land owners on Sumas Mountain made quite clear to city council the fact that their properties were privately owned and not common land open for public use, I happened to chat with the city’s director of parks and recreation.

In short order the discussion, not instigated by me, led to the tree protection bylaw and his contention that the city must, yet again, have control over private ownership, using the argument that “we do it all the time with private lands (building permits, zoning, etc.).”

He then became quite agitated when I did not agree that the city should have ownership of trees it considers significant.

Now despite what many may believe, I am to an extent an environmentalist. I believe that many aspects of our environment need to be preserved for the common good. However, I also believe that an individual should not be personally required to provide those things for current or future generations.

Therefore I offer for consideration a novel approach, at least to “significant tree” protection in our community.

Firstly, an inventory of all such trees, and they should only be indigenous, needs to be taken throughout the city, including agricultural lands which are not currently protected due to the provincial Right to Farm Act.

This inventory can begin with an aerial survey … obviously, significant trees will stand out due to their height or canopy size. Determining their exact location is a simple matter with a GPS device.

The city should then approach the owner, point out the city’s desire to protect it for the future, and have the tree appraised. Offer the owner current timber market value, paid for through a reduction in property taxes (perhaps phasing the cost over a 10-year period) and register a codicil, caveat, easement or whatever is the appropriate restriction on the property title that the tree is now owned by the city and cannot be removed.

The tree lives, the city has done “the right thing,” the tree huggers are happy, and the now-former owner should be comfortable with the compensation.

Of  course, the fact that the tree is now publicly-owned does not grant the city nor the public any rights of access across private property unless that is also compensated for at the time.

I thought it interesting during my brief conversation with the parks director, that when I pointed out that perhaps the only remaining old-growth firs within the city are completely ignored I received a blank reaction as if he and his tree protection staff were unaware of them.

Yet there, standing tall against Sumas Mountain Road, are seven giants which, from all appearances are, as they were called when I was young, virgin timber.

They are huge, scattered in a 200-metre line along a creek, and somehow despite being adjacent the “ancient” Kilgard brickworks survived being cut down to feed the plant’s drying kilns.

And there they stand, without protection, completely unnoticed and overlooked while city staffers still believe it is necessary, for the benefit of all, to target some guy wanting to cut down the oak tree he planted 40 years ago.

Our elected officials need to suggest – nay, demand – that staff adopt a new philosophy and approach – one that looks for innovative and non-punitive ways to solve issues, rather than simply relying on the enactment of laws upon unnecessary laws.

We’d all end up in a happier place, and at the same time council could dispel the notion, at least in Abbotsford, that – as NDP cabinet minister Dave Zirnhelt once said in the 1990s – “government can do anything.”

The NDP found out that was wrong. And, with that philosophy, other governments will eventually find themselves on the outside looking in as well.

Just Posted

Students from W. J. Mouat Secondary hold the banner they earned for taking top spot at the recent national Let’s Talk Career competition. (Submitted photo)
Mouat Secondary in Abbotsford wins national Let’s Talk Careers competition

School among 245 across nation that competed to be named ‘Canada’s Most Informed’

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Chilliwack Fire Department on scene at a house fire on Boundary Road and No. 4 Road on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (David Seltenrich/ Facebook)
Fire crews respond to house fire on border of Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Flames, dark smoke reported coming from front of house when crews arrived

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

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

Most Read