Editorial: Let’s rise to the tree preservation challenge

Word to the wise: anyone contemplating removing trees should contact the municipality ahead of time to determine if permits are required

While it’s too late for the blue atlas cedar that once graced Cavendish Road, with any luck the stiff, $30,000 penalty handed down to two individuals will give pause to anyone else considering cutting down a protected tree in the district.

With interesting timing, word of the penalty came as residents, council and the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission got their first look at the draft study reviewing the state of Oak Bay’s tree canopy.

“This is a good day for trees in Oak Bay,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. While the tree that was lost can’t be replaced as it was, the “significant fine sends a strong message that the illegal removal of trees will not be tolerated.”

And, word to the wise: anyone contemplating removing trees should contact the municipality ahead of time to determine if permits are required.

What has become clear through the study, and in residents’ communications with us, is what many already surmised: trees are important to Oak Bay – to the quality of life, the streetscape and to the greater environment.

Emphasizing this importance, Diamond Head Consulting presented a report with more than 30 recommendations to guide the community toward a tree canopy of 40 per cent by 2045, up from the current  33 per cent. While Oak Bay stands considerably better that many other jurisdictions, that’s about a two per cent loss of canopy since 2002.

While many in the district are concerned about the pressures of development on the existing canopy, significant impacts also come simply with the age of the trees themselves, parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay points out. Even given the best care, trees have a finite lifespan and many in Oak Bay are nearing  – or have passed – theirs.

All the more reason to look for solutions.

Given just a few days to review the report recommendations, a number of residents asked for more time to look it over more closely. It’s time they and council will have, as the consultants fine-tune the report post-presentation, incorporating feedback before bringing it back to the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission and then council.

Oak Bay has the opportunity to take a leadership role in urban forest preservation. Let’s rise to the challenge.