Saanich council has approved the creation of a new reserve fund to support the District’s trees and ecosystems.
During the Monday night meeting, council voted in favour of a bylaw creating a reserve fund for the District’s urban forest.
“We value and appreciate our urban forest as a vital part of our community,” Mayor Fred Haynes said.
He pointed out that the reserve fund’s establishment is indicative of the District’s dedication to protecting trees and enhancing Saanich’s natural environment.
The municipality’s preexisting Urban Forest Strategy includes long-term goals to ensure the sustainability of the forested areas in parks, private and commercial lands, along roadways and in any open spaces throughout the community. The reserve fund will support the goals outlined in the plan.
The Urban Forest Strategy includes supporting the growth of the urban canopy, creating and enforcing urban forest guidelines, taking inventory of the forested land, developing an operations program while engaging with the community and strengthen the tree protection bylaw.
Council has already taken steps to strengthen the tree protection bylaw. Following council’s approval of the amended bylaw in early January, it was determined that the new rules would take effect on Feb. 5. The changes include an increase in the number of replacement trees required when one is cut down – the number of replacements depends on the reason for the removal.
If replacement trees cannot be replanted on the property, owners can pay the District to plant replacements elsewhere. These funds, along with the fines from violations to of the bylaw and donations from the public, go into the reserve fund.
Further upgrades to the tree protection bylaw are expected in 2020.
The money from the new reserve fund will allow more trees to be planted in Saanich, support further educational and stewardship programs to be planned and permit the purchase of materials needed to meet the municipality’s forestry goals.
Nathalie Dechaine, manager of community development and business systems, noted she is “very excited for both the residents and the urban forest in Saanich.”
She feels the reserve fund will play a key role in helping the District meet its goals.
“This decision represents so much potential to support partnering with our community to grow and enhance the Urban Forest, which garners so many benefits.”