Saanich has offered up their draft on an Urban Forest Strategy. You have until September 12th to submit your thoughts on the strategy.
What I noted is that from 1986 to 2005 Saanich had lost 583 hectares of land with more than 50% forest cover. This was 12.6% of the forested area. At the same time Saanich gained 112 hectares of impervious surface, a 12.3% increase in the same time. The ratio of forested to impervious surface went from 5.07 to 3.93. There is clearly a trend towards the loss of forested land.
My concern is that the strategy is going to focus on trees and not the forest. This really is a case where some narrow minded tree preservation bylaws will literally miss the forest for the trees. The strategy spends too much time in trying to come up with ways to put all the costs of trees on the backs of private land owners and not in the hands of the municipal government.
Saanich needs to move away from thinking about the individual trees that exist and look towards where major amounts of trees can be added.
Saanich has the ability to add a lot trees along streets, there could be a goal set of adding 50 km of trees along streets each year.
Parks and schoolgrounds. Mosf of them in Saanich have large expanses of grass and is lacking in trees. Look at the Tillicum school ground, only one major tree on the site. Look at Colquitz middle school and you will see the same. Cuthbert Holmes park offers close to 12 hectares of land that need to be reforested. there are some 25 hectares of unforested park lands in the Panama Flats area that could be reforested. Cedar Hill golf course has about 45 hectares of land that could be much more densely forested.
There are no shortage of large properties in the public realm that could be planted with trees, but this is not the focus of the strategy. There is enough land available that if replanted with trees could leave Saanich with a higher amount of forested land than in 1986. But this would require the municipality and school board to take action and out a focus on planting trees.
Frankly, all these school grounds without trees seem to me to be very boring places. I would like to see at least half of each school property to be covered in trees. Some apple trees would be a nice addition to the schools so that the kids have apples they could pick in the fall.
If adopted as it is written now, the urban forest strategy will have little or no impact on the lass of forested lands in Saanich. It is a long winded document that passes the buck and makes the council look like they are doing something, but really it is a deck chair rearranging thing.