Five years ago, Oak Bay pledged to protect some of its most valued trees – but that commitment hasn’t been enough.
Despite a tree protection bylaw, the municipality continues to lose between 100 and 120 Garry oaks annually, the majority of those on residential land.
The trees are one of five species currently protected under a 2006 bylaw restricting property owners from removing any Garry oak, Arbutus, Pacific yew, Black hawthorn or Pacific dogwood trees with a basal diameter greater than 10 centimetres or a height above the point of germination in excess of two metres, without first coming before council. Significant trees and replacement trees of those species at any size are also protected from removal under the bylaw in theory, but in reality, they’re getting axed.
“Our urban canopy is eroding and that concerns us,” said Coun. Tara Ney, parks and recreation commission liaison.
Last week Ney put forward a successful motion to preserve more of the district’s special trees by forming an urban forest strategy. The plan follows two years of monitoring the effectiveness of the tree bylaw.
“We’re doing pretty good on municipal land, but we’re not on our residential land,” Ney said, adding the bylaw was never perceived to be Oak Bay’s sole protection strategy.
The parks and recreation department will now form a committee and build a strategy of regulations and incentives aimed at further protecting the urban forest in advance of the district’s next official community plan, the bulk of which will be formed in 2013. The strategy, Ney said, will likely incorporate a public education component and increased emphasis on replacement trees.
“Our urban forest is an asset to us. That’s what we pride ourselves on and we need to do everything we can to protect it.”