December 8, 2016: Ottawa’s Urban Forest Management Plan; Will it save our diminishing canopy?
December 8, 2016: Ottawa’s Urban Forest Management Plan;
Will it save our diminishing canopy?
By Deb Chapman.
There is a significant body of research confirming the positive contributions that trees make to cities. One recent study of 245 urban areas around the world, for example, proved that trees are cost competitive with other methods of cooling and cleaning air, and trees have been found not only to improve storm-water management, public health objectives and the quality of life in our neighbourhoods, but to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Kitchissippi, unfortunately, is losing its forest canopy through infill development and disease — but residents are sounding the alarm.
The city has reacted by embarking on an 18-month process to develop an Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP). While other Canadian cities have developed their urban forest plans internally with excellent results, Ottawa has opted to pay consultants to do the job.
Both the city and its consultants deserve praise for excellent consultation processes around the draft UFMP. Citizens had the opportunity to contribute. Those who read the 256-page draft report and provided detailed analysis of its strengths and weaknesses deserve the Mayor’s certificate of appreciation.
The proposed draft is a good start. The approved plan will, hopefully, rely less on good intentions by requesting more funding and demanding quicker action to save our trees.
Here are some of the highlights of community feedback collected during consultations:
Residents want the bar raised on enforcement. The city currently relies on residents calling 311 when a tree is not protected or has been illegally cut down or damaged. The plan recommends shifting existing resources to improve outreach, proactive enforcement and monitoring of the city’s urban forest policies and by-laws in 2022. Residents asked “Why wait?” and expressed a desire to see more trees saved on redevelopment properties. As one retired police officer attending the consultation asked, “If you have a law, why not enforce it?”
The UFMP wants the city to develop a baseline inventory of trees on both city and private lands, and to determine the value of these trees more accurately. This would help Forestry Department know where trees are in need of protection. Existing trees could then be added to site plans prior to development, and protected more effectively during development, along with trees on adjacent properties.
Residents want a more accountable and transparent process around the court cases and fines imposed on those charged with infractions under the Urban Tree Conservation by-law and the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas by-law.
Residents also recommended that the city present all environmental as a united and integrated vision. For example, our city’s Climate Change Plan does not mention the role that urban trees play in mitigating the effects of climate change.
Feedback also recommended that existing guidelines, standards and specifications related to Ottawa’s new Complete Street Implementation Plan ensure the health and well-being of trees. This would necessitate cooperation between city departments. Ottawa can look to the City of Toronto for best practices on how to organize in this regard.
The city will revise the UFMP to reflect the feedback obtained during the consultation process. Let’s hope this is one consultant’s report that doesn’t gather dust.
To view Ottawa’s Urban Forest Management Plan online, visit http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/environment/urban-forest-management-plan.
Photo Caption: The developer at this site did not protect this tree as required under by-law. Photo by Debra Huron.