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Richmond considers bylaw changes to protect ‘significant trees’

Bird population depends on mature trees to survive
Sharon MacGougan (foreground) hopes a tree bylaw update will help protect bird habitats.

Richmond is looking to strengthen its tree bylaw to protect “significant trees” – those that are 36 inches or greater in diameter.

These large trees contribute to neighbourhoods and provide “more to soil structure, sediment control and erosion prevention” and other benefits, according to a city staff report.

Proposed changes to the city’s Tree Protection Bylaw include ensuring property owners plant replacement trees in the same spot of a tree that is removed without a permit.

Any illegally damaged, cut or removed “significant trees” will have to be replaced at a ratio of 3:1 – the current ratio is 2:1 - with one tree being at least “significantly larger” with a minimum height of eight metres.   

The proposed stronger tree bylaw was “wonderful news” to Sharon MacGougan, president of the Garden City Conservation Society (GCCS).

“Any efforts that the tree protection department at the City of Richmond is making, at the very least, ensures there is some mitigation of the ecological loss,” said MacGougan, adding it’s the “number one” priority right now for the society, which supports any efforts to conserve trees.

Mature trees, especially, are a “key aspect of biodiversity,” she added.

Birds, said MacGougan, depend on trees for habitat and, with mature trees gone, they have no place to build their nests nor enough food sources.

“We’ve lost three billion birds since the 1970s and the number one reason is habitat loss and it’s happening all around us.”

Furthermore, changes to the tree protection bylaw would also compel property owners to remove “standing dead or dying trees.”

This would also help city staff address “life-safety issues” as standing dead trees can pose a risk to people or buildings nearby.

While MacGougan told the Richmond News there are environmental benefits, such as insect habitats, when it comes to dead or dying trees, she will need to further understand the reasoning behind this point of the proposal.

The changes to the Tree Protection Bylaw are being addressed at next week’s planning meeting (Feb. 8).

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