Saanich is looking at planting 10,000 trees a year within its borders after a report found the district has fallen behind in maintaining its urban forest.
Council has asked staff to look into the financial implications of significantly increasing the municipality’s annual tree- planting target.
The current target is 2,000 trees a year, but a report on the state of the urban forest says that’s not enough.
The report by Vancouver-based Diamond Head Consulting graded Saanich’s forest management as “fair” and in need of improvement.
“We’re obviously losing trees and need to up our game in terms of tree preservation and tree planting,” Mayor Dean Murdock said in an interview.
Murdock said the “fair” rating did not come as a surprise given the amount of tree loss in the region due to land-use changes and new development, as well as climate change and extreme weather affecting some species.
The draft report, in its final stages, includes a review of the district’s urban forest policies, bylaws, plans, forest-management program and an analysis of the entire urban forest.
The update found forest cover is unevenly distributed, with several neighbourhoods not meeting the goals of 30 per cent canopy cover.
Single-family residential zones have an average canopy cover of about 31 per cent, while parks have about 57 per cent cover and roads have 28 per cent.
It’s estimated that half the trees planted each year are replacement trees as a result of new development.
The mayor, who brought forward the idea of increasing the district’s tree-planting efforts, said some Saanich neighbourhoods have a “tree deficit,” including Gorge-Tillicum and the Uptown corridor.
“We want to create more tree equity, shade equity, so that neighbourhoods all over get the benefit of some canopy cover and the natural environment, or at least green spaces that create a lot of natural benefit and enjoyment in the community.”
Council has left it to staff to determine how long it would take to ramp up to planting 10,000 trees a year, what it will cost and where the trees should be planted.
Murdock said increasing the number of trees in the community shouldn’t just involve “stuffing our parks with more trees than they can naturally accommodate.”
“We have to get creative with incentives that would see more tree planting on private property. We can work with some of our institutional partners like the school district, university and hospital or Island Health to see more tree planting on their properties as well.”
Murdock said he would like to see more trees lining Saanich streets.
It’s expected to take years for Saanich to ramp up to planting 10,000 trees annually.
“It’s going to mean more funding will have to be allocated for tree planting and tree care. It’s not enough just to plant them — you have to make sure that they survive,” Murdock said.
>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: email@example.com