Maple Ridge’s new tree bylaw needs work, says observer

‘Provides no new protection,' no better than old tree bylaw, says lawyer

Maple Ridge’s temporary tree bylaw is toothless and just serving as a way for the city to tally how many trees are being mowed down, council heard Monday.

Staff at best, are doing a counting exercise, said local lawyer and tree preservationist Allen Lees.

And the proposed new bylaw “provides no new protection.”

Lees, who’s been campaigning for years for a stronger tree bylaw, said that the word “significant” added to one of the sections in the new bylaw automatically prevents the bylaw from applying to the vast majority of trees in Maple Ridge. The city has no trees that are declared “significant” trees and there is no registry for that.

Staff are currently revising the draft law after council reviewed it earlier this month.

He suggested just removing the word so the section applies to all the trees.

“What the word did was remove all the protection requirements from trees other than significant.”

But Maple Ridge has no significant trees, he added. And it doesn’t even have a registry where those trees can be deemed significant and worthy of protection.

A significant tree is considered one in size or shape or species, of historical importance, or a landmark.

The new draft tree management bylaw also requires people in the urban areas to get permits to chop down any trees over 20 centimetres in diameter.

But there’s no limit on the number they cut down in an urban lot, providing they keep at least two on each property.

“Under the new, proposed bylaw, there will be nothing protecting people from cutting whatever they want.

“The protection for urban trees has been removed, in spite of support for protection,” said Lees.

“For urban trees, the new proposal is as bad as the old was.”

His daughter, Jessie Joy, showed council photos of trees recently cut down on a private lot on Shady Lane (124th Avenue) as an example.

Lees also suggested that the new bylaw follow Surrey’s example and simply require replacement of any trees removed on a two-for-one basis.

“Under the new proposed bylaw, there will be nothing preventing people from cutting whatever they want.”

Under Maple Ridge’s old tree bylaw, urban residents could cut down three trees per year that were over 10 centimeters in diameter.

Under the interim bylaw, property owners in urban and rural Maple Ridge have to get permits to remove any tree larger than 10 centimetres in diameter.

So far, about 90 have been given out since it came into effect earlier this year.