City committee agrees to take a stand to protect, preserve trees in Edmonton's public spaces

·2 min read
Edmonton has 380,000 trees on city-owned boulevards and open spaces.  (City of Edmonton - image credit)
Edmonton has 380,000 trees on city-owned boulevards and open spaces. (City of Edmonton - image credit)

Edmonton's trees will get a little more care and consideration under a proposed bylaw that will be making its way to city council.

The tree preservation and protection bylaw, approved Tuesday by the city's urban planning committee, aims to prevent trees from getting damaged or destroyed at work sites.

Under the bylaw, anyone working within five metres of a tree trunk, or within 10 metres of a natural area would have to submit protection and preservation plans.

"Currently we have bylaws in place and policies in place that are very reactive, so it can be very difficult to enforce damages that happen to trees," Melissa Campbell, operations supervisor for Urban Forestry told CBC's Edmonton AM on Tuesday.

"With this new current bylaw, we'll be taking more of a proactive approach."

Edmonton has 380,000 trees on city-owned boulevards and open spaces.

Tree protection plans lay out where protective fencing will be installed, where the temporary crossing access will be, and how trees will be protected during construction, Campbell said.

Tree preservation plans, meanwhile, are more complex and will require a sign-off from a professional biologist. Campbell said those plans "will be required for any work like excavation and grade changes."

The bylaw calls for a $1,000 fine for failing to submit a plan and securing the proper permits.

Many members of the public attended the committee meeting to express their support of the bylaw.

"Edmonton's trees represent an irreplaceable asset, and unlike other municipal infrastructure, trees increase in value over time," said Kristine Kowalchuk, a NAIT instructor who was speaking on behalf of the Edmonton Valley Conservation Coalition.

She pointed out how mature trees are more valuable than young ones in terms of carbon capture and other benefits to the ecosystem.

"In Edmonton, as mature trees make up only 15 per cent of the city's urban forest, it's critical that every one of those trees be protected and preserved," she said.

Some speakers talked about the heat waves of this summer and the impact of trees on keeping streets and neighbourhoods cool.

Campbell also talked about the heat, noting the challenges it presented in caring for the trees.

"It has been a tough summer. Certainly, trees need a lot of water," she said. "I have noticed recently that there is some evidence of some scorch on trees that typically happens late in the season."

She said the city is working on a plan to get to trees that might be at risk of damage to the root system or stress from the drought.

The bylaw will be presented to city council next week for final approval.

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