Thursday, March 4, 2021

Rural and urban tree cover recommendations approved

Recommendations by staff surrounding rural and urban tree cover across Chatham-Kent were approved by Council on Monday night, September 21, 2020.

Council directed administration and the Lower Thames Conservation Authority to continue to collaborate on the Natural Heritage Strategy and the climate change action planning process.

A staff report indicates this process will involve:

– Implementing the Alternative Land Use Services Program, which encourages rural landowners to undertake stewardship activities, like tree plantings, native prairie plantings, wetland restorations, etc., through education and incentives.

– Continuing to review opportunities for tree planting on publicly owned lands.

– Completing a municipal-wide Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based tree canopy change assessment to understand how tree canopy cover has changed in Chatham-Kent between the years 2010, 2015 and 2020 and reporting the findings back to Council.

“From a climate change perspective, trees are important instruments to mitigate climate change because of their ability to sequester carbon in their limbs, trunks and in the soil,” said Gabriel Clarke, environmental planner, in a staff report.

“Trees are also important from an adaptation/resilience stand point thanks to their ability to produce shade and reducing energy costs by limiting the urban heat island effect and because of their ability to capture, clean and gradually release storm water which reduces storm water management costs.”

Council also directed administration to undertake the following actions to enhance the community’s urban street trees, as resources and budgets permit:

– Implementing the ‘avoid harm – minimize harm – replace tree hierarchy for future municipally-led public construction works that have the potential to impact municipally-owned street trees. The specific locations for tree replacements will be determined on project-by-project basis.

– Completing an urban street tree inventory and condition assessment to capture the following information for each street tree: tree species, general health, dollar value of ecosystem services generated, approximate age, etc. The street tree inventory will be completed for all primary and secondary urban centres throughout Chatham-Kent as resources allow. With current resources, Public Works estimates it will take approximately 10 years to complete the entire assessment.

– Integrating the results from the urban street tree inventory into the Municipality’s Corporate Asset Management program.

– In the interim, Council will consider having Public Works implement a cut-a-tree, replace-a-tree program at an annual cost of $75,000 per year to be considered during the 2021 budget deliberations.

– Exploring service enhancements to street tree maintenance and replacement programs along with budget implications and reporting back to Council if the tree inventory and condition assessment suggest that such enhancements will benefit the community.

Clarke also described details, stemming from a previous motion by South Kent Councillor Anthony Ceccacci, to have 1-million trees planted across the Municipality of Chatham-Kent in the next four years.

“The 1700 acres required to plant one million trees in Chatham-Kent exceeds the amount of Municipally-owned land that is suitable for tree planting, which suggests that the Municipality will have to collaborate with private landowners in order to secure enough land to reach the goal,” Clarke said in his report.

North Kent Councillor Joe Faas also entered a successful amendment to the recommendations on Monday night.

Faas’ amendment prohibits the planting of new trees or the replacement of trees of Municipal drains and their working corridors, on all drains located adjacent to or on Municipal roadways and on Municipal dike structures.

“Tree removal along drains and dikes is essential to ensure optimal operation performance in accordance with structural requirements, the Municipality’s legislated responsibilities under the Drainage Act and its by-laws,” Faas said.

For further details, Clarke’s full report can be seen, here.

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