The Kent Federation of Agriculture is opposing a tree-cutting bylaw in Chatham-Kent.
According to a recent media release, The federation believes landowner rights should take priority. The KFS is said to be a strong and sustainable agricultural sector,” calling it an economic driver.
In April, councillors approved a motion from Wallaceburg Councillor Aaron Hall, who asked for a temporary 120-day bylaw to regulate the removal of woodlots while staff considers an incentive program and other measures.
Hall mentioned the fact that Chatham-Kent currently has one of the lowest percentages of tree cover in all of Ontario. He added the municipality’s previously identified goals to develop approaches to protect natural resources.
The motion also included a public consultation process through virtual meetings and online comments, a best-practices analysis for incentives and woodlot preservation across the province, an updated natural heritage policy and bylaw, and a report to council that includes findings, feedback and updates.
The online engagement forum can be viewed by logging onto ck-woodlot-preservation-bylaw.ethelo.net/page/priority will be open to the public until July 9.
The website brings residents through a variety of different topics ranging from priorities, woodlot preservation tools, an education overview, incentives, bylaws and more.
To date, the comment section has received more than 230 comments regarding residents’ opinions on the bylaw.
As of June 2, which had 1137 votes, the results indicate 80 percent of voters support the preservation of woodlots in Chatham-Kent.
The voting input will be collected on July 9, then consolidated and used to inform options to council.
Eight years ago, when council proposed the idea of a Chatham-Kent tree-cutting bylaw, many landowners and farmers wanted to clear cut woodlots and bush before a bylaw could be enacted. This eventually led to a spike in deforestation and the loss of natural habitat across the municipality.
However, council abandoned the bylaw idea, agreeing instead to allow members of the Kent Federation of Agriculture to monitor woodlots.
Critics say the approach hasn’t worked as farmers continued to clear woodlots in order to plant crops.Jay Cunningham, the Agriculture Federation President, said the group doesn’t believe a bylaw is warranted. He added that if any updates are needed, then members need to have a say.
At a recent board meeting, the Kent Federation passed two motions – one opposing the tree-cutting bylaw and another supporting the natural heritage strategy, which was implemented by the municipality seven years ago.
“In a follow up with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, we have encouraged an open and effective discussion on this subject and remain hopeful that they will accept our offer,” reads the release.
The results of the public input process will be shared with council and the public. Council will ultimately make all decisions regarding woodlot preservation in Chatham-Kent.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News