Working towards a consensus on protecting and maintaining the forest canopy

By Pepper Parr

October 21st, 2021



It’s the trees again.

Burlington has this struggle going on within the bosom of the city over the trees

Some see a tree on their property as their tree that they can do anything they wish with.

Others see trees as something for which we are the stewrds – to ensure that they are cared for and preserved wherever possible.

Roseland residents writing comments on plans for tree preservation at a 2016 meeting. Finding a consensus and strong views for better preservation isn’t in place yet.

It’s an ongoing battle – and one that the city administration and Council are going to do everything they can to get a consensus – thus another Public engagement on proposed Tree Protection and Enhancement Guiding Principles and the Private Tree Bylaw Update.

They want feedback from residents, businesses, developers and forestry professionals on the proposed policy statements and bylaw amendments.

There are two opportunities to provide feedback: online survey and online public information session.

The online survey is open now until Nov. 12, 2021 at

Online information session:
Date: Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021
Time: 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Location: Online. Link will be posted on

Belvinea -one of the streets in the city that makes your heart swell as you drive along it on a Spring day.

Staff will be presenting information and receiving feedback on the proposed Tree Protection and Enhancement guiding principles which will form the basis of a new city policy. The focus of the discussion will be on how these guiding principles will help to develop city policies and how they will influence future amendments to the City’s Public and Private Tree Bylaws.

The Proposed Tree Protection and Enhancement Guiding Principles are:

A healthy urban forest improves the quality of life of City of Burlington residents. By providing a framework for protection and enhancement of all trees on public and private property, the City of Burlington’s urban forest will continue to grow with the goal to reach 35 percent tree canopy cover by 2041.

Roseland has an aging collection of trees that need attention and a replacement plan

A multi-faceted approach is required to meet this goal, which is addressed through four guiding principles:

Just two weeks ago trees were ripped out in rural Burlington and there was no one at the city or regional level that could do anything to prevent it.

• Tree Planting and Replacement
• Protection and Preservation
• Asset Maintenance
• Community Outreach, Education, and Collaboration

To get involved, please visit


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4 comments to Working towards a consensus on protecting and maintaining the forest canopy

  • Alfred

    Philip .

    You hit the nail right on the head. There was no problem with the number of trees being removed. A study by City staff proved it.

    This Mayor wanted to give the illusion of her solving a problem that never existed.

    Mary may I suggest you provide what proof you have that the removal of a few hundred trees in a City with over 4 million trees in a Province with over 85 billion trees in a country with 338 billion trees or roughly 9 thousand trees per person is a problem?

    Thanks to folks like you, some of your neighbors are being forced to spend up to 10 thousand dollars and up on applications such as renovation or swimming pools even when they don’t want to remove a tree. Mary are you suggesting we develop a SWAT. team against tree removal.

    The tree cutting by-law meetings were poorly attended. In a City with roughly 200 thousand people I have difficulty describing this as democracy. In fact I would be inclined to suggest anyone would be foolish to plant a tree on their property with your draconian suggestions.

    Which would then in turn result in less trees not more. Connect the dots. Give people more incentive to plant trees not make them a liability.

    I wonder why the Mayor as of yet has not provided the new stats. on the success of the new Tree by-law??

  • Philip Waggett

    Based on the history of the enactment of the municipal tree bylaw in Burlington, the City has some nerve asking citizens for input. If readers remember, City Hall decided to run a pilot project in Roseland to see if such a bylaw was necessary. Implemented on March 1, 2019 and running for two years until March 1, 2021 at which a cost-benefit analysis was to be done to determine the need for such a bylaw across Burlington. However, the City backed out of this commitment early and quickly enacted the tree by-law without following through on the pilot project. Why was this? No reason was ever given but I have to be cynical. I live on the edge of the Roseland area and saw very little tree removal taking place; in fact, most of the trees I saw removed were ash trees removed by the City. I feel the group of councillors and the Mayor were so committed to the tree by-law come hell or high water that they ended the study early because they knew the results would not support their pre-ordained conclusion. A very sad day for democracy I’m afraid.

    • Mary Hill

      Philip. I agree with you it may not have been the best example of following through on a plan, or a commitment. But it was not a blow to democracy. Many hearings, committee meetings, council meetings were held on the private tree bylaw topic at which the public was able to delegate and make its views known. That was democracy in action.

      The Private Tree Bylaw was much needed. It certainly needs tweaking, improving. One thing that is needed immediately is a 24/7/365 enforcement capability. Those who act outside the bylaw do not do so within at hours that are convenient for the Forestry department.

      You may have gathered I am in the “stewards” camp

      • Phil Waggett

        You believe that the private tree by-law was needed. Was it? Most of the most egregious examples of trees being cut down occur with the re-development of the property–could these not have been dealt with effectively through the building permit/development application process? In the case of homeowners wanting to cut down trees on their property, why shouldn’t they be able to do so? Homeowners don’t do this gratuitously–trees get older and can pose a safety hazard and need to be removed/extensively pruned. The needs of the homeowner may have changed and the house may need to be renovated, necessitating the removal of a tree–why should they not be able to do so? But of course they can still do these things, only that the City gets its cut! And the law of unintended consequences will come into play–why would I plant a tree that I won’t have any control over? It’s quite possible that more homeowners will be reluctant to plant a tree.

        I strongly suspect there were many homeowners like me who understood the City’s end-game when they enacted the pilot project. I had two trees removed in my backyard that were becoming a problem–and I removed them early before the City could start charging me for the privilege. I wonder how many trees were removed because of the pending by-law?