Why Aren’t More Citizens Across this Region Pressing their Councillors for More Effective Rules for Conserving Trees?
A New Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted July 14th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Most of us are familiar with old line; “What if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it?”
Well, what if a trees falls or, more to the point, an entire stand of trees is chopped down within ear or eye shot of a community of concerned citizens and there are no rules with enough teeth on the books to stop it?
There were at least two significant cases in this Niagara region this past November 2018 where citizens were faced with a case of trees they cherished being chopped down – one in the Waverly Forest area of Fort Erie where a multi-storey condo is on the drawing board, and one on the historic Randwood Estates property in Niagara-on-the-Lake where the current owner plans to build a new hotel, convention centre and recreational complex.
And in both these cases and others like them, including a clearing of trees by developers in the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls to make way for a path or road, calls for action against the tree cutters were met with a response from authorities that upset and angered many of them.
In short, the response they received was that the tree and forest conservation rules on the books at the time, and are still the rules of the day at the Niagara regional government level, would do nothing to stop or to penalize the tree cutting that took place at these sites.
In the wake of the cutting at the Randwood property in Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the first things the town’s newly sworn-in council did last December was pass a stronger bylaw for protecting trees – one that would require a private property owner to obtain a permit from the town before cutting down even one tree.
Niagara’s regional government is apparently reviewing the tree bylaw it has had on the books for a number of years now. But there is no suggestion yet that the Region is looking at rules that might prevent any unilateral move by a property owner or developer to do what was done last fall in Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, or in any other municipality in Niagara.
The following are photos taken from above the property of the historic Randwood Estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, taken for the citizens group SORE, before and after trees on the property were cut down this past year, 2018 –
This Monday, July 15th, St. Catharines city council will consider whether or not to pass a new tree bylaw but, according to a recent report in the local newspaper, many private property owners in the municipality – at least a majority of those who took the time to contact city staff about the proposed bylaw – don’t like it.
At least some have apparently warned the city that if the bylaw is passed by council this July 15th, they will cut down the trees they now have on their properties before the bylaw kicks in, and will not plant any new trees.
It is hard to believe that a majority of people in St. Catharines – a city that just recently joined a growing number of other local, regional and national governments around the world in declaring that our planet faces a “climate emergency” – feel the same way, but who knows?
All too often, it seems from my years of experiencing covering environment issues, people who care about protecting trees don’t speak out until they hear the chainsaws cutting through branches and trunks, and by then it is too late.
Niagara’s new Regional Council has been sworn in for more than seven months now and, even with the controversy around the cases of tree cutting I mentioned above, not one delegation of citizens has taken advantage of the opportunity to appear before the council as a delegation to make the case for stronger tree protection rules at the regional level.
And the regional level may be where more effective tree protection rules matter the most since those rules would apply to stands of trees across the whole of Niagara.
Why can’t we have more effective rules in Niagara for protecting trees?
Somewhere between putting a homeowner through a bureaucratic hassle for wanting to cut down or trim one or two trees on their property and developer having their way with whole stands of trees, there must be room for a tree bylaw with teeth at least as strong as those on a chainsaw.
Why do we almost always wait for the saws to fell another stand of trees that we love before enough of us press our municipal councillors to take effective action?
To read some related posts on this issue, click on –
To read a copy of Niagara Region’s current Tree and Forest Conservation By-Law click on – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/bylaws/tree/default.aspx
Send questions or requests for information concerning the Region’s by-law to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), the agency responsible for enforcing it:
Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
250 Thorold Rd. W, 3rd Floor
Welland, ON L3C 3W2
905-788-3135 ext. 247
Niagara At Large is including the following images to share a little more information on the beneficial role trees play in our environment.
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