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Pressure grows for tree-cutting bylaw

Petrina Arnason was one of several speakers who pressed Langley Township council to tackle tree-cutting in Brookswood at the Monday night meeting. - Dan Ferguson/Langley Times
Petrina Arnason was one of several speakers who pressed Langley Township council to tackle tree-cutting in Brookswood at the Monday night meeting.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson/Langley Times

Outraged Brookswood residents who want a ban on clear-cutting say many acres of forest have already been lost, and the pace of tree-cutting is accelerating.

Several speakers told a crowded Langley Township council chambers Monday night that action needs to be taken quickly.

Celeste Paley, a professional arborist, said a random search of Township records shows 1,223 “significant” trees on 18 sites were approved for cutting in Brookswood over a one-year period ending March, 2013.

That was 82 per cent of the “adult demographic” trees on those sites, Paley said, and it is likely those trees are only a “tiny fraction” of the actual losses.

Paley noted the cutting was carried out despite a provincial law that is supposed to restrict the “destruction or disturbance of bird habitat” between March and August.

Resident Anna R. (who only goes by her initial) had organized an online petition calling for an emergency tree-cutting ban, which, as of Tuesday, had over 700 signatures.

Her online message asks if the cutting is being “preemptively” carried out in anticipation of a new community plan for the Brookswood area that would have allowed increased housing density.

That plan was scuttled when council refused to approved it last month in the face of heated opposition from residents.

But the cutting is continuing, she said

“We need to do something to stop it,” she said, generating applause.

Petrina Arnason, a member of Watchers Of Langley Forests who said she was speaking as an individual, not a WOLF member, told council Langley’s tree protection bylaw “has quite a few gaps” that need to be closed.

Arnason doubted an emergency order prohibiting tree-cutting was the best solution, because the process of approving the ban would take time and it could have the “unintended consequence of accelerating this process” as owners rush to remove trees in advance of a ban.

Councillor Kim Richter proposed a temporary prohibition that would allow time to overhaul tree protection regulations while intervening to prevent property owners from “savagely ripping apart” Brookswood.

“Hopefully we can fast-track a bylaw,” Richter said.

The Richter proposal, which was slightly modified after some discussion with other members of council, would restrict tree cutting to three trees, per acre, per year.

It was given preliminary approval Monday with the only votes against cast by Mayor Jack Froese and Councillor Grant Ward, who had doubts about the legality of a temporary ban and wanted to have Township staff do a review first.

“I think we need to act quickly,” said Councillor Michelle Sparrow.

Councillors Charlie Fox and Steve Ferguson said the Township should revive a municipal task force that tried to draft a tree protection bylaw in 2007, but failed to get it approved by a majority of council at the time.

“Langley is due for a tree bylaw,” Ferguson said.

The proposal is expected to come back to council for more discussion at next Monday’s meeting.

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