Victoria staff request $110,000 to expand city’s urban forest

Development of an Urban Forest Master Plan a five-step process

Victoria city staff recommend $110,000 be transferred for the implementation of an Urban Forest Master Plan.

The Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP) has been in place since 2013, and holds 26 recommendations to expand the City’s urban forest over the next 50 years. There are approximately 150,000 trees in the city, of which the city is responsible for 32,950. The UFMP hopes to expand this number and increase the canopy coverage throughout the area.

“In response to council’s direction to expedite the implementation of the UFMP and in response to the climate emergency, staff have developed an implementation plan to complete high priority UFMP recommendations over next five years,” the report reads.

To do so, staff are recommending a five-step process. The first is to finish hiring its urban forest team; several people have been hired but two more will be added in 2020.

ALSO READ: City of Victoria limits protected tree circumference to 30 cm or more

Next, staff plan to further strengthen the City’s tree protection bylaw. In November council passed updates to the Tree Preservation Bylaw so that smaller trees are protected, and higher fees are implemented for tree removal.

A second phase would include a cross-jurisdictional review of what other municipalities are doing to protect trees, with aims of an updated bylaw being proposed to council by March 2020.

Staff would also conduct an audit to see how the roles of urban forest staff are working out. This portion of the plan would take seven months and cost $35,000.

Next, staff plan to set tree canopy cover targets. Presently staff are seeking updated data on the City’s canopy coverage, since current data comes from a 2005 overhead photo which resulted in an estimate of 18 per cent. Poor image quality and outdated technology prompted staff to look at more recent images from 2013, which point to a 26 per cent canopy coverage instead. Along with updated data on canopy coverage, staff will looking into carbon storage, air quality improvements and avoided stormwater runoff to identify where more trees are needed. This will take four months and cost $14,000.

ALSO READ: Property owners now required to pay $2,000 if they can’t replace removed trees

Over eight months, staff want to develop neighborhood planting plans for the next 10 years. This would include where to plant trees as well as what kinds of trees to plant. Estimates for this are $40,000.

Lastly, staff plan on developing a citizen stewardship plan which would include education with the public and exploring opportunities for residential collaboration. It could also include lessons in tree planting and maintenance for trees on private land. This would take a year and cost $20,000.

The funding would come from the Tree Preservation Bylaw fund which was put in place by council this year.

The costs were scheduled to be discussed at committee of the whole on Thursday.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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