General Committee Update – Sept 8, 2020

Tom Mrakas

Last night at General Committee, Council discussed and, ultimately, recommended approval of the report “Review of Urban Forest Study & Associated Forestry Policies”.  The original UFORE report, submitted in 2014 and adopted by Council in 2015, “…directed staff in February 2020 to review the Study and bring back a report to a future General Committee meeting.”  This report is a result of that scheduled review.

The purpose of the UFORE study was, “ to assess the distribution, structure and function of Aurora’s urban forest, and to provide management recommendations for enhancing the sustainability of both the urban forest resources, as well as the community as a whole.”    The intention of the report and its findings was to serve as a, “…baseline for future research, management and monitoring, accordingly, several policies were developed and/or refined to assist in the implementation of a number of the UFORE Study recommendations…” including:

  • Landscape Design Guidelines – June 2015
  • Tree Removal/Pruning and Compensation Policy – June 2015
  • Tree Protection/Preservation Policy – June 2015
  • Tree Planting and Approved Plant List Policy – June 2015
  • Vegetation Management Agreements

The report before Council, offered several recommendations for council’s consideration that build upon existing policies and implement additional measures to further protect Aurora’s trees.

The preservation and long term viability of our Tree Canopy is very important to our community.  The good news is that due to the fact that Aurora has implemented strong forest stewardship practices over the past decade, our tree canopy is one of the best in York Region and surrounding areas.  However, more work is needed, especially given the threat that Climate Change places on our urban forest canopy.  Right now, Aurora loses 4% of its tree canopy due to mortality alone due to lack of or too much water, pests, and other related problems.  As stated in the original UFORE report, , “the protection and stewardship of existing trees is the most effective means of achieving greater tree cover and leaf areas”.  

Council recognized in 2015, that concrete action was needed to ensure not only the preservation of but long term sustainability of our tree canopy.  The report in front of Council last night wasyet another step forward, building on the work begun in 2015.  Staff recommendations included an update to our tree permit bylaw and the tree compensation policy so that they would better align with each other as well as to implement additional protective measures such as increases to soil depths in new residential subdivision boulevards which can maximize the potential for sustainable street tree growth. These further recommendations will continue to strengthen our policies and ensure that our future tree canopy will continue to be strong and grow. 

As I stated previously, I believe the best way to ensure the long term viability and health of our tree canopy and increase its current and future ability to combat climate change is to implement tree management measures that improve biodiversity and better ensure multilayer (multi heights) and multi aged tree canopy.  Staff have been working towards that goal for the past 5 years. And the updates brought forward to Council as part of this scheduled review provide enhanced protections.

I am proud of Council’s commitment to the protection and long-term viability of Aurora’s tree canopy. The recommendations approved by Council last evening represent a continued commitment to the effective stewardship of one of the most vital natural assets we have as a community – our Trees.

Over the next two years,  York Region, in partnership with the Town and the Conservation Authorities will be developing a timeframe for the Urban Forest update.  We look forward to reviewing that update and recommendations for the further enhancement of our ecosystem management approach to protecting our Trees.

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