Port Moody moves to save more trees, even forests

Port Moody council wants to save the city’s trees, maybe even entire forests.

Tuesday, council unanimously endorsed a motion by councillors Meghan Lahti and Amy Lubik instructing staff to begin drafting an update to the city’s tree protection bylaw.

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The update will include specific definitions for what is meant by “significant,” “specimen” and “heritage” trees, an expansion of protection to trees on private property and more specific guidelines for planting replacement trees.

In their report to council, Lahti and Lubik said the lack of defined terminology in the city’s current bylaw leaves it to council to interpret what those terms mean. They also want the city to develop a way to record where its significant trees are.

“If we do not have a way to identify them, we cannot protect them,” said the duo’s report.

Lahti told council trees help mitigate the effects of a changing climate as well as provide homes to wildlife and birds.

Lubik said preserving trees can also inspire environmental stewardship, provide a sense of place and even make people more inclined to walk through neighbourhoods. And creating a map of the city’s important trees could become a tourism asset.

“There are so many reasons to protect our trees,” she said.

But some councillors urged caution to not become overly-zealous about preserving every tree.

Coun. Hunter Madsen said with the growing risk of wildfires brought on by climate change, he “doesn’t want to see changes to the bylaw that would preclude a property owner from removing a tree for safety reasons to reduce the risk from wildfire.”

Coun. Diana Dilworth said sometimes there are circumstances when a tree needs to be cut down, “Not everybody who cuts down a tree is a bad person."

Lubik said she’s confident a balance can be found.

“We need to be mindful that sometimes trees are going to need to come down but they need to be replaced,” she said.

Lahti said in drafting an update to the bylaw, staff should look to the best practices established by other communities like Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam, which recently launched an online portal where residents can nominate significant and heritage trees in that city.

Mayor Rob Vagramov said trees shouldn’t just be considered individually. He said the bylaw should also protect forests.

“If part of that forest is on private land, how do we protect that forest from being developed?” he said.

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