Oak Bay will present its newly updated tree protection bylaw at an open house on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
By most accounts work on the bylaw is now complete. However, the manager of Oak Bay Parks Services, Chris Hyde-Lay, said they will summarize feedback from the open house and send it to the council.
The bylaw supports all five main objectives of the urban forest strategy: To protect and enhance canopy cover to approach 40 per cent by 2045. To support a healthy, well-adapted and diverse tree population. To manage the urban forest for community climate change adaptation. To strengthen natural heritage to support healthy ecological systems and biodiversity and to engage and partner with the community to build stewardship of the urban forest.
The bylaw especially protects any Garry oak, Pacific yew, Arbutus, Black hawthorn or Pacific dogwood with a base diameter greater than 10 centimetres or a height above two metres.
All other trees, if deemed healthy, are protected as long as they have a diameter “at breast height” greater than 60 cm.
Thus the bylaw will protect trees while Oak Bay also figures out how to work with residents and institutions to plant 5,000 new trees on private property by 2040. The easy part is planting 1,400 new trees on public land, Hyde-Lay said.
“One thing we really want to do is partner with the community to encourage stewards who plant Garry oaks and other [recommended] trees on private land,” Hyde-Lay said.
He estimates Oak Bay Parks will have planted about 300 trees when the tree-planting window ends in February.
“That number, if we keep it up, is on track to meet our goal for planting 1,400 new trees on public land,” Hyde-Lay said.
The Parks Services manager said that despite what people might believe, about 86 per cent of the trees that come down per year are diseased or dying. Only 14 per cent of the annual trees that come down in Oak Bay each year are for development. The 2019 number of trees lost will be released soon.
Oak Bay’s new Grow Your Oaks campaign has also hit 70-plus Garry oaks since the fall.
“It’s still active and we are still taking applications,” Hyde-Lay pointed out.
The tree-planting initiative falls in line with the United Nation’s goal to plant one billion trees. Trees provide a wide range of climate benefits as they help regulate temperature, mitigate stormwater runoff and provide wildlife habitat.
Because of the resilience of Garry oak trees they are projected to adapt better than most trees in the warmer and drier climate of Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island’s famous red and yellow cedars are not on Oak Bay’s recommended list of trees to plant. Climate change is already blamed for the failure of the world’s biggest yellow and red cedars here on the Island.
Instead, go for a California or Giant redwood. But really, plant a Garry oak, Hyde-Lay said.
“What we want are trees that are going to be able to adapt to climate change, we’re not looking for Weeping willows,” Hyde-Lay said. “Garry oak is not just our namesake but it does well with the climate models.”
The open house for the tree protection bylaw is 5 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Oak Bay Municipal Hall.