A tree lined street in Vancouver

Developing Vancouver's Urban Forest Strategy

trees planted since 2010
Every tree is part of the urban forest. Help grow the forest canopy and reach our goal of planting 150,000 trees by 2020.

The City is developing an urban forest strategy for Vancouver, which will provide tools for growing and maintaining a healthy, resilient urban forest for future generations. 

Vancouver’s urban forest includes every tree in our city – on streets, in parks, public spaces, and back yards. Our urban forest plays important environmental and social roles: it cleans the air, absorbs rainwater, provides bird habitat, and improves our health and well-being. 

We recognize there are competing values and objectives in dealing with trees. The new strategy will provide a clear and balanced approach to protecting and expanding the urban forest in our city.

Urban Forest Strategy: in-depth

Council endorses the Urban Forest Strategy 

April 16, 2014 – Council voted to approve the Urban Forest Strategy, which includes an update to the Protection of Trees Byalw. Review the strategy to learn how we plan to protect, plant, and manage Vancouver's urban forest.

Supporting documents

Action item 1: Repeal of Section 4.5 of the Protection of Trees Bylaw policy report

Urban Forest Action Plan and protection of mature trees:

Objectives of the new strategy

To date, the objectives of the new strategy are to:

  • Further develop our plan to plant 150,000 trees by 2020 and increase Vancouver’s tree canopy cover
  • Ensure new trees are planted strategically across the city
  • Update management plans, policies, and practices to address emerging dimensions such as climate change
  • Address the whole urban forest lifecycle: planting, maintenance, protection, removal, and re-use
  • Create an integrated urban forest inventory system
  • Develop strategies for ongoing public engagement and connections to stewardship programs

How we will achieve these objectives

We will achieve the objectives of the Urban Forest Strategy through:

  • Protection: An amended Protection of Trees Bylaw and increased construction inspections will save Vancouver's healthy, mature canopy of trees.
  • Planting: Strategically planting the right trees in the right places, increasing the diversity of species, and finding ways to plant more trees on private property will increase the forest canopy.
  • Management: Over the entire life of the urban forest, we will create new management, succession, and asset inventory plans.

Collaboration and public engagement

Opportunities for engagement and collaboration on the strategy will be developed with stakeholders, businesses, other governments, urban forest experts, stewardship groups, and residents. We want to organize a city-wide conversation on how everyone can help us reach our goals.

Work leading up to this project

The Urban Forest Strategy started in 2011 as a priority item under the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. The strategy was supported through motions approved by the Park Board and Council in 2012.

The City currently has plans, bylaws, and policies governing trees across different departments. The City and Park Board have identified a need for a dedicated and long term approach to sustain our urban forest, and to align with emerging trends and best practices.

Identifying and reversing the decline of our urban forest

While Vancouver boasts a spectacular urban forest, research commissioned by the Park Board shows that our urban forest is shrinking – even though we’ve planted thousands of trees in recent years on City boulevards, streets, and parks. Private property is the area with the most dramatic loss of trees, through the unintended consequences of allowed tree removal.

When the number of trees diminishes, so do the benefits these trees provide. Our study found that 18% of Vancouver is covered by tree canopy compared to 22.5% nearly twenty years ago. These findings prompted our immediate action to address the loss of urban forest and to protect healthy trees.

Better protecting healthy trees on private property

Action #1 in the Urban Forest Strategy is an amendment to the Protection of Trees Bylaw that currently permits the removal of one tree per year from private property. The amendment will help stop unnecessary removal of healthy and mature trees on private property.

Related initiatives and bylaws

Tree in pot, shovel, and rubber boot

Tree sale

Help us grow our urban forest and reach our goal of planting 150,000 trees by 2020.

Tree Vancouver

Tree Vancouver

We care for 450,000+ trees of Vancouver's urban forest. Learn about what we're doing, and how you can contribute.

Couple at dusk on False Creek Habitat Island in Vancouver

Greenest City Action Plan

Greenest City is a bold initiative that addresses Vancouver's environmental challenges.

Protection of Trees Bylaw

Preserves, protects, and strengthens our urban forest, while permitting property owners to remove trees for property maintenance and development.

Tree in pot, shovel, and rubber boot

Coolkit (external website)

Equipping citizens and communities with the skills they need to evaluate and improve the canopy cover in their neighbourhood.