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Council approves a long-term strategy for our urban forest: Protection of Trees Bylaw updated

April 16 2014

“The Urban Forest Strategy will ensure a clear and balanced approach to protecting, expanding and maintaining our urban forest, and move us closer to our goal of becoming the greenest city by 2020.” -- Mayor Gregor Robertson.

A tree-lined street

City Council has endorsed a comprehensive long-term Urban Forest Strategy, which will provide the necessary tools to protect existing trees, plant trees more strategically, and manage a healthy, resilient urban forest for future generations.

“The Urban Forest Strategy will ensure a clear and balanced approach to protecting, expanding and maintaining our urban forest, and move us closer to our goal of becoming the greenest city by 2020,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “This forward-looking approach brings together a diverse set of plans, bylaws and policies into a single, dedicated strategy that will help guide our sustainable growth and social well-being. It also brings our bylaws related to tree removal in line with the rest of Metro Vancouver.”

Vancouver is home to an urban forest that comprises approximately 140,000 street trees, 300,000 park trees, and an unknown number of trees on private property. The urban forest plays important environmental and social roles, such as cleaning the air, absorbing storm water, storing carbon, providing habitat, and improving health and well-being.

Bringing our approach to tree protection in line with other cities

In supporting the Urban Forest Strategy, Council also repealed Section 4.5 of the Protection of Trees Bylaw effective immediately. This change to the bylaw brings Vancouver in line with other municipalities in Metro Vancouver, and ends the provision for private property owners to remove one healthy, mature tree per year without cause.

Property owners can now remove a tree only if the tree is: hazardous; dead, diseased or dying; within a new building footprint; or close to, or interfering with, drainage systems, sewage systems or utilities. All tree removal applications will require a report prepared by an ISA certified arborist.

City Council approved amendments to the strategy, including allowing for the removal of a tree in cases where the retention of an otherwise healthy tree would cause undue hardship, and asking staff to report back on a mechanism to provide compassionate relief for those financially unable to undertake an arborist assessment.

A Greenest City Action Plan priority

The Urban Forest Strategy was first conceived in 2011 as a priority item under Council’s Greenest City Action Plan, with a specific target of planting 150,000 new trees by 2020. Despite planting thousands of new trees annually, Vancouver’s tree canopy cover has steadily declined since 1995. Almost all of the tree loss (96%) has occurred on private property. Today’s bylaw change brings Vancouver in line with the tree protection measures of other cities in the Lower Mainland and beyond.

In the coming months, the City will develop opportunities for engagement and collaboration, and organize a city-wide conversation with residents, stakeholders, businesses, urban forest experts, and stewardship groups to help achieve the goals set out by Urban Forest Strategy.

Learn more about the urban forest strategy

Urban forest strategy

Urban Forest Strategy

Vancouver's Urban Forest Strategy provides tools for growing and maintaining a healthy, resilient urban forest for future generations.