Tree trouble in Township

Langley Township is moving forward on a bylaw that would ban clearcutting of trees in the Brookswood/Fernridge area.

Township staff are now at work on a bylaw that would prohibit cutting down more than three trees per acre, per year in Brookswood.

Councillor Kim Richter brought forward the motion in response to the anger of Brookswood residents about clearcutting of wooded lots in the leadup to the debate over a new Official Community Plan for the area.

Several Brookswood residents spoke earlier in the meeting about tree cutting issues.

“In Brookswood, the forest is our filtration system,” said Celeste Paley.

She and another speaker showed the council a number of photos taken in the last few months or years from around Brookswood, showing before and after shots of acreages that had once had substantial amounts of trees and which have now been logged down to few or no trees.

“We definitely need to have some kind of a bylaw in place,” said Kim Caouette.

Richter said she wanted to fast-track the plan to put a prohibition in place.

She also pointed out, along with several other councillors, that there already appears to be a provincial ban on land clearing during the spring, although several residents in the area said there has been a significant amount of tree cutting going on as recently as this weekend.

“Basically, we need to move on this prohibition bylaw ASAP,” Richter said.

However, she noted during the lengthy debate, that her prohibition will not be a full tree bylaw. The Township has wrestled with a tree-cutting bylaw in the past and has never quite managed to put one in place for Brookswood.

Councillors touched on a number of issues, with Coun. David Davis wondering if the rules would affect farmers clearing Agricultural Land Reserve properties for farming. He was assured by staff that they would not.

Coun. Charlie Fox wanted to bring back the task force that has worked previously on tree protection. There was some discussion about whether that would be quick enough to accomplish the aims of residents.

Discussion also centered around whether the Township should be imposing tree protection on just one neighbourhood, or all areas with mature trees.

Residents will also be encouraged to call the province about violations of site clearing rules during nesting season.

According to Township staff, there is a provincial and federal rule that land generally can’t be cleared without a special permit between March and August due to the Provincial Wildlife Act and the International Migratory Bird Convention Act.

Clearing requires Ministry of the Environment or Department of Fisheries approval during those months.

Coun. Michelle Sparrow suggested publicizing the toll free line dubbed RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) at 1-877-952-7277.

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