Saanich’s strengthened tree protection bylaw is set to go into effect in less than a month.
After 10 months, Saanich council officially adopted amendments to the District’s tree protection bylaw at the first meeting of 2020.
In March 2019, Coun. Rebecca Mersereau proposed that the bylaw – which regulates the cutting down, damaging, removal and replacement of Saanich trees – be upgraded to make it more effective. She noted that the loss of trees in Saanich is “inevitable” due to development but that there are opportunities to lessen the impacts on the urban forest.
After several discussions and readings at council meetings in 2019, the amendments were presented to council for a final reading at the Jan. 6 meeting. Council unanimously approved the strengthened bylaw in a quick vote and the changes go into effect on Feb. 5.
Mersereau is pleased, noting that the bylaw changes will ensure Saanich’s urban forests stay healthy and continue to benefit future generations.
“[Trees] support biodiversity and provide habitat, improve the quality of stormwater and reduce costs for conveying it, provide critical shade and cooling in the summer and they are responsible for so much of the character that makes Saanich’s neighbourhoods and rural areas unique,” Mersereau said.
Mayor Fred Haynes emphasized that tree protection in Saanich is important to council. The amendments include an increase in the number of replacement trees required when one is cut down – the number of replacements depends on the reason for the removal.
Council hopes to lead by example by ensuring that District staff abide by the bylaw and plant three replacements for each tree removed by the municipality. This could cost Saanich up to $50,000 more annually to replace and care for the increased number of trees. The money will come from the parks department’s small tree maintenance budget.
“We made a commitment to our roles as environmental leaders and urban forest stewards,” Haynes said.
Council expects to receive further amendments to the tree protection bylaw in 2020.
Residents can access further information about the amendments to the bylaw on the Saanich website.