The City of Surrey is reviewing its tree protection bylaw. (Photo: Black Press Media file)

The City of Surrey is reviewing its tree protection bylaw. (Photo: Black Press Media file)

Surrey reviewing tree protection bylaw, after request from environmental committee

Councillor says bylaw is ‘a bit out of date’

The City of Surrey’s tree bylaw is being reviewed by staff, after a request from the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee earlier this year.

Councillor Steven Pettigrew, who chairs the committee, said a few meetings back the group asked staff to review the bylaw to see if it could be strengthened. “So go to the public, talk to developers, have some public consultation and from that, come up with recommendations at some point down the road.”

“The tree protection bylaw is a bit out of date. There’s been people working on this for many years now, so I’m just joining their efforts.”

During a meeting on May 1, the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee recommended that council direct staff to amend the tree protection bylaw.

The committee, according to the meeting minutes, identified key recommendations for amendments, such as increasing the penalties for illegal tree removal; ensuring all fees and penalties collected under the tree protection bylaw are directed to the Green City Fund; provide additional incentives to retain trees through land development and on existing lots; and improve the visibility and display of tree-cutting permit notices.

Another key recommendation, was to “evaluate the potential for a municipal nursery to allow for tree and plant salvage.”

Pettigrew said he’s heard “concerns from the people of the city that perhaps (the bylaw) could be strengthened.”

The councillor has long voiced his concern over tree loss in the city, and first became involved in the political landscape in the unsuccesful fight to halt the former Surrey First government from cutting down trees in Hawthorne Park to make way for a road.

This past May, Pettigrew voiced his concern over the tree loss the new civic government had already approved since taking office last fall. By his tally, nearly 50,000 trees have since been removed – or approved for removal – to make way for development.

SEE MORE: Surrey council has approved 50,000 trees ‘for the axes’: Pettigrew

“And the NCP has opened in the Anniedale-Tynehead area so that’s been opened now. Over the next 10 years that whole area is going to be developed, we’ll probably lose another 35,000 trees in that area. Plus all the individual applications that come to us every weeks, we’re looking at hundreds and hundreds of trees.

“This needs to be looked at.”

Pettigrew said trees do so many things and “people are starting to get the idea now.”

“Obviously they provide air and so forth, but we’re going through this climate crisis right now and when we lose so many trees it’s going to contribute to the crisis.”

Pettigrew expects staff will report back with their recommendations by the end of the year.

In May, Little Campbell Watershed Society’s David Riley told Black Press Media that the group is trying to interest city council in starting some kind of compensation program to deal with the loss of not only individual trees, “but essentially mature forests,” due to development.

“We’re calling this an ecological services compensation program. It’s going to be a long and difficult discussion, because, one, how do you do this without penalizing owners who have not cut all of their trees down?” Riley said at the time.

Riley said there’s “no point” in fighting individual developments, including ones that involve total clear-cuts. The focus, he said, should be on policy.

“What you want to be talking to your councillors about is, we want to be talking about this in terms of a Surrey-wide policy. As we go along, what kind of ecological services do we want to be getting from trees?”

-With files from Aaron Hinks, Lauren Collins