LETTERS: Strange war on trees in QB

What defines Qualicum Beach, the strange wars on trees? In Qualicum Beach, if all our neighbours did what mine are doing today — chopping down most (all?) of the evergreen trees on their property — there would be no urban forest, little or no biodiversity and limited natural beauty would remain.

Without urban forests (including trees on private land) and green corridors there would be an absence of birds, wildlife, no natural privacy, sound barriers, windbreaks, no shade, no heat, water and drainage retention/detention and moreso, top soil erosion, severe loss of carbon capture, urban capital and property value.

There would be no Qualicum Beach as we know it now. Are you concerned, living here? Is tree destruction affecting you and your property?

My neighbourhood, ‘Qualicum Woods’, aptly named, could become a barren landscape devoid of living diversity if the rate of tree loss continues. Perhaps a re-naming would be in order, a rebranding as it were. ‘Qualicum Woods’ would no longer apply.

Not only here. Our entire community is experiencing accelerated destruction of trees and forests. Houses alone do not make a home.

Climate Change and Urban Forests

In their joint publication Planting our Future: A Tree Toolkit for Communities, the BC government and the Union of BC Municipalities advise thatWe need to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but at the same time we need to plan for and adapt to the anticipated changes in climate. Urban forests help us to do both — if we plan carefully. Trees store and sequester carbon. Large healthy trees (over 75 cm diameter) sequester 90 times more carbon annually than small trees (less than 10 cm diameter). Trees reduce energy consumption, and thus the consumption of fossil fuels. Energy reductions come from shading, windbreaks and encouraging a pedestrian friendly environment. Trees can help communities adapt to climate change impacts. Carefully chosen and placed trees can reduce summer heating impacts, absorb and slow water from rainstorms, and buffer windstorms.”

Chopping trees down should require consultation and permit by vetted ecologist/arborists, as is already the norm in many Island and BC communities, with land management rooted in climate science, education and enhancement. If trees must be removed, destabilization of remaining trees must be considered, and replacement with indigenous trees must be the practice.

Why has the Qualicum Beach Tree and Vegetation Management Plan, first drafted in March 2020, not been adopted by our Council? This ‘Framework for Action’ has sat in front of them for over a year. https://qualicumbeach.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/8277?preview=8279

The collective thought that Qualicum Beach will remain as it is or that it will be ‘sustainably developed’ is not proven and is in fact, not occurring. Callous and unnecessary environmental destruction is foolishly on the table and ruthless, questionable zoning and Urban Containment Boundary changes are afoot. Are these developments in our best interests? Are we getting all the information needed from this Council to determine this? What do you need to know to decide?

A Tree and Vegetation Management Plan (An Urban Forest Bylaw) will help protect the severely undervalued and underrepresented natural environment currently under threat. Past citizens undertook the preservation and creation of this town and many now are fully aware and taking a stand. We are facing major land development changes, climate crisis, ecological loss, a pandemic and a population surge.

A community’s health, social and economic wellness are directly tied to a biodiverse environment. Sustainable, climate aware urban planning is underpinned by the retention and creation of natural systems. Corroborated by science and education, many BC communities have or are implementing these criteria now. Tree and vegetation management is a first step in the right direction. Shouldn’t these standards and values be reflected in the body politic? Where are we headed if this does not happen? Is our Council out of touch?

In the draft QB Tree and Vegetation Management Plan (page 11), within Goal #1: Conserve Natural Values and Systems, Priority Objective 1: Protect and enhance watershed quality and associated ecosystem services, the consultant’s first recommendation is to strengthen tree-cutting restrictions.

The most valuable and vaunted neighbourhoods are full of trees and parks retained in natural landscape. This is undeniable. But we are not protected here. Some of the Qualicum Beach Council appear staunchly and embarrassingly out of step with the times.

Clearly we need a Tree and Vegetation Management Plan and Bylaw, led by a qualified Municipal Ecologist and Urban forester. As the draft Plan points out, our current data is weak – “Studies are required to evaluate and benchmark the health and functional condition of the natural systems the Town is seeking to preserve and enhance.” Our leading environmental and community organizations and citizens vociferously continue to speak to this need.

We don’t need a “rebrand”

We need our Town Council to uphold our Official Community Plan, which “has always been very strong on environmental protection and quality of life”. In support of our community values including “ensuring the quality and quantity of water” and “protecting/restoring the natural environment”, one of the OCP’s principal policies is that “The Town shall endeavor to manage the natural capital and ecological assets, such as green space, aquifers, foreshore areas and creeks, using infrastructure and financial management concepts that are typically applied to engineered assets.”

One of the key areas of focus identified in the QB Community Climate Adaptation Plan, also available since March 2020, is to “increase the resilience of the urban forest.” What has been completed so far?

We don’t need a ‘rebrand’. We need to legally acknowledge what makes our town valuable by protecting our environmental assets, the natural beauty of trees and forests that define Qualicum Beach, in perpetuity under law.

The war on trees must stop.

Linda Ward-Paul, Qualicum Beach

I acknowledge that I live and work on the territory of the Coast Salish People and within the shared territories of Qualicum and Nanoose First Nations.