Canniff, Thompson on tree cutting

·2 min read

Chatham-Kent's mayor would like to see incentives for woodlot owners to keep their trees.

That’s the word from Mayor Darrin Canniff, who says administration and staff are “working very hard” to find a solution to the continued dilemma surrounding deforestation in Chatham-Kent.

The deeply polarized debate has landowners and farmers pitted against environmental and conservation groups over the eradication of natural spaces on private property.

Canniff says he sees both sides of the argument and the answer lies in finding middle ground.

“We need to find a balance between the two and we’re working on that.”

Canniff would like to see incentives for landowners to protect properties, rather than punitive measures.

“It’s the carrot versus the stick and I’d rather see the carrot,” says Canniff.

South Kent Councillor Trevor Thompson, who was recently elected as board chair of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, doesn’t see a clear solution to the to problem.

“Any time there is an uncomfortable or difficult decision where we don’t have an answer, it’s up to the majority of council to decide,” Thompson adds.

The fact that Chatham-Kent lacks a tree-cutting bylaw has proved to be a thorny issue for many years.

Fears that a Woodlot Bylaw which would put parameters around how many trees woodlot owners could cut and fees for tree replacement would be enacted by Chatham-Kent in 2013, was met by protest. Some woodlot owners brought in bulldozers to clear trees as the debate took place to avoid having to follow the proposed new rules.

Farmers cleared land at an unprecedented pace — as was, and still is their legal right in Chatham-Kent — and environmentalists fought back by way of social media criticism. Some likened it to an environmental Armageddon.

The divide between landowners and environmentalist shows no sign of lessening as the debate goes forward.

Chatham-Kent is only one of two jurisdictions without a tree-cutting bylaw.

It also has one of the lowest rates of forest cover in Ontario at 3.4 per cent. Toronto, in contrast, has a tree cover of 27 per cent. The province hopes to reach 40 per cent tree cover to improve the environment.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald