RDN tree removal policy for parks would stipulate net-zero loss of trees

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A new policy for tree removal and management in Regional District of Nanaimo parks and trails includes a focus on a net-zero loss of trees, fire risk management and tackling invasive species.

The regional parks and trails select committee approved the policy on Feb. 4 after sending an earlier version back to staff last fall. The new policy will go to the board of directors for final approval on Feb. 23.

Area B Director Vanessa Craig (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy) said the earlier draft focused too much on tree removal without having a comprehensive, “umbrella-type policy,” something she advocated for during the draft deliberations. This version keys in on “the importance of addressing ecological integrity of parks as a management focus,” she told the Sounder.

The new policy notes the “crucial role” trees play by managing storm water runoff, improving water and air quality and sequestering carbon. With the net-zero loss component, at least one replacement tree, of a species native to the area, is required for every tree removed in an RDN park or trail for purposes related to building park infrastructure. Some exceptions apply for trees lost to natural causes such as windstorms, or for ones removed to reduce fire risk.

The fire risk management component notes the need for a specific plan for each park that would take into consideration factors such as fire suppression challenges, an overview of a forest’s health and composition and preventative fire management practices tailored to each park. That’s expected to cost $60,000 annually. Staff recommended hiring a one-year temporary full-time natural area technician who would also be responsible for invasive species management.

A grant funding streaming would also be established for community groups to apply for funding under $1,000 to purchase hand tools for invasive species removal.

“On Gabriola we’re very fortunate to benefit from [Gabriola Land and Trails Trust] and their work in addressing invasive species – this will help bolster efforts at a regional level and will provide more support for Area B groups in addressing these issues,” Craig said.

The committee discussed providing assistance for invasive species on non-RDN lands as well. Program logistics and total grant monies available would be part of 2022 budget planning, Rebecca Taylor, RDN communications coordinator, said.

The tree removal management component of the policy comes with a $7,000 price tag to certify RDN parks staff as arborists and for tree risk assessment while replacement tree costs are estimated to range between $10,000 and $15,000 per year. The full policy package would costs $137,000 annually; if approved by the board, it would be included in the 2022 budget.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder