In an effort to increase tree cover in Chatham-Kent, councillors showed their support behind several staff recommendations during a Sept. 21 council meeting.
However, council also approved an amendment allowing municipal drains and dikes to be properly maintained. This sometimes requires the clearing of trees and brush.
In a report, planning services had asked staff and the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority to continue to collaborate on the Natural Heritage Strategy and the climate change action planning process.
This means implementing the Alternative Land Use Services Program, which encourages rural landowners to perform stewardship, such as tree plantings, native prairie grass planting and wetland restorations, through incentives and raising awareness.
Opportunities for tree planting on public lands will also be reviewed. Additionally, there is a geographic information systems-based tree canopy change assessment to understand how the canopy changed between 2010, 2015 and 2020.
Gabriel Clarke, the municipality’s environmental planner, said incentives and education are keys to improving tree cover. He added more information is needed to determine how this cover has changed over the years and whether the measures are effective.
“We don’t have a data set to understand changes over time,” said Clarke. “We’d be in a much better position to understand whether or not the objectives that council and the community have established for natural environment and tree canopy in Chatham-Kent are actually being realized through these activities.”
North Kent Councillor Joe Faas entered the successful amendment concerning drains and dikes, noting that staff need that flexibility.
Thomas Kelly, General Manager of Infrastructure and Engineering, called it crucial from an operational and legal perspective.
“The whole intent of the drain is to have the right flow,” said Kelly. “It’s legislated by the Drainage Act. “We have to clear the brush, and we have to clear the trees out. And often, we only have 45 days to do so.”
Kelly said his department supports the initiatives in the tree cover report; however, the drainage and dike work is being “done for very good reasons.”
Other measures recommended in the report included the completion of an urban street tree inventory and condition assessment for each tree. This inventory would be completed for all primary and secondary urban centres throughout Chatham-Kent as resources allow. With current resources, Public Works estimates it will take approximately 10 years to complete the assessment.
Also included in the report is implementing a “cut-a-tree, replace-a-tree” program at an annual cost of $75,000 per year to be considered during the next budget deliberations.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News