Brantford City Council unanimously approved a new City Tree Protection and Maintenance Practices Bylaw during their regular meeting on Tuesday, March 28, 2023.
The new bylaw replaces the existing bylaw and will include measures to preserve the City’s existing tree canopy by clarifying prohibited activities involving City trees, providing an updated guideline for work on City trees, and updated replacement ratios for City trees removed by request.
Overall, the bylaw will allow the city to regulate planting, protection, maintenance, preservation and expansion of the City’s trees and tree canopy.
A tree canopy can be described as the parts of the ground shaded by the leaves and span of a tree. The canopy offers protection to the ground beneath it from harsh sunlight, winds, and heavy rainfall while also retaining moisture in the soil.
In January 2021 the City of Brantford approved the City of Brantford Official plan that directed the City to achieve a minimum of 40% tree canopy cover by 2051. The City’s current tree canopy sits between 18-25 per cent.
Delagtion Kailee Poisson of Brantford approached council to congratulate City Council for their initial approval of the new bylaw and discussed how important maintaining these areas are for the future.
“Preserving what little tree canopy we have left within the body’s borders of the city is vitally important for not only the future survival of our local wildlife species, but to us humans as well tree canopy and green spaces scientifically proven to benefit the mental and physical well-being of our citizens,” she said. “The colour green specifically has a calming effect on the brain chemistry of humans, and within the chaotic, stressful society we live in today.”
We need to utilize every resource we have to protect what little biodiversity we have left. We need to prioritize the protection of these mature and century old species over kind of cutting them down and replacing with various new plantings,” she added. “As that practice, although easier and cheaper in some eyes diminishes the species genetic variability and long term resilience against disease.”
Poisson encouraged the City Council members to follow cities like Kingston in their effort to double their tree canopy by 2025.
Councillor Dan McCreary discussed with Inderjit Hans, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer about the current space available for planting more trees within the City.
Hans did not have a number off hand but is planning to look into, however he mentioned that the original goal of 40% by 2051, may have to be adjusted.
“We did have a higher number percentage that we had we were aiming for,” he said. “But we know with with all of that, it’s very hard to be able to make that 40% canopy that we were estimating, not to say that we would not try. But we have to have a realistic goal to start with.”
Councillor McCreary asked that after a calculation of a recent aerial laser scan is done, that a more realistic number be provided so the City can better plan to reach an goal.
Councillor John Sless described the current tree canopy as “embarrassingly low” but discussed with Gagan Batra, Manager of Business Supporting Sustainability, if the results from the aerial laser scan could have been skewed by any empty farm land that may have been purchased by the City in recent times.
“I don’t have those figures offhand,” responded Batra. “But if that was the case, then yes, it would significantly skew the results.”
Councillor Michael Sullivan asked Batra if there was an existing tree replacement ratio of city trees and Batra confirmed that the replacement ratio sits at three to one no matter the age or size of the tree. She then explained how the new bylaw would allow for a sliding scale replacement ratio.
“Which just means that the bigger the tree, the older it is, the more trees will have to replace in its place, she said. “So, it’s actually a more accurate replacement ratio, depending on the climate impact that that tree would have had.”
Council voted unanimously to receive the City Tree Protection and Maintenance Practices bylaw and it will go into effect on Monday, May 1, 2023.