Shelterbelt / Hedgerow Protection Bylaw
What is it?
Shelterbelts are vegetated areas planted to reduce wind speed, providing shelter from wind and snow to livestock, crops, buildings, roads, etc. A Shelterbelt can be a single row or made up of multiple rows, and often consist of tall trees to increase wind protection. Hedgerows are similar, however these are formed by a variety of plant species, and are often 4-5 meters thick rather than a single row. Hedgerows are a common practice in the United Kingdom, and create a thick living fence around fields, alongside roads and properties. Both Shelterbelts and Hedgerows provide biodiversity maintenance, reduce soil erosion, maintain moisture, and filter urban pollutants from roadsides and agricultural or residential lawn practices.
A Shelterbelt or Hedgerow Protection Bylaw is a regulatory tool that protects existing shelter belts and hedgerows from removal or damage.
How can municipalities use it?
Municipalities can establish a Shelterbelt/Hedgerow Protection Bylaw to protect these resources from development, detrimental land use activities, and to prevent the spread of plant-related disease. The bylaw can require development applications to identify shelterbelts and hedgerows, as well as require compensation for any impacts to trees or other important vegetation. The bylaw can also require residents to seek approval for any activity that will damage or impact a shelterbelt or hedgerow. In addition to the regulatory bylaw, a municipality can include shelterbelts and hedgerows as a priority in the Municipal Development Plan and Transportation Plan, as well as in Area Structure Plans.
What are the advantages?
A Shelterbelt / Hedgerow Protection Bylaw offers the following advantages:
Increased biodiversity and habitat connectivity
Contribution to clean air and water
Improved aesthetics of an area
Erosion and flood control
Increased moisture retention
Increased safety in winter driving conditions, when protecting roads from snow
Provides an opportunity to educate community members on the value of shelterbelts and hedgerows
What should you watch out for?
No tool is a silver bullet. Important considerations to be made about a Shelterbelt / Hedgerow Protection Bylaw include:
Can be difficult to enforce without mapping of shelterbelts or hedgerows
Can be difficult to enforce without a witness to the damage or removal of a shelterbelt or hedgerow
May not apply if it would inhibit the permitted use or density of a property
Exceptions to the bylaw may be complex
May not have the support of all residents (i.e., those who wish to cut down shelterbelts or hedgerows on their property)
Maintenance may be needed for shelterbelts and hedgerows
A municipal bylaw can augment, but cannot conflict with, a provincial law
How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?
Shelterbelts and hedgerows help to maintain the natural infrastructure system by providing wildlife habitat and connectivity, filtering pollutants, retaining moisture, and reducing erosion and flood. Further, shelterbelts and hedgerows contribute to clean air and water, and improve the aesthetics of an area.
AGRI-FACTS: Shelterbelts in Alberta – The Government of Alberta provides information on shelterbelts.
Alberta Environmental Farm Plan – The Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a voluntary, whole farm, self-assessment tool that helps producers identify their environmental risks and develop plans to mitigate identified risks. Information and assistance on shelterbelt development and management is available through a strong network of EFP Technicians throughout the province.
Shelterbelt Planning and Establishment – The Government of Canada provides information on the planning and establishment of shelterbelts.
Creating a hedgerow for wildlife – Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club provides information on how to get started with creating a hedgerow.
Hedgelink UK – Hedgelink is a partnership that shares knowledge and ideas to encourage and work with farmers to conserve and enhance the United Kingdom’s hedgerow heritage.
Farm hedges – The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), a conservation charity based in the United Kingdom, provides information on the history of hedgerows, the value they have for wildlife, and farm hedgerow management.
UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat Descriptions – Hedgerows are included as a priority habitat in the UK [United Kingdom] Biodiversity Action Plan; Priority Habitat Descriptions.
Battle River Watershed Alliance Drought Adaptation and Management: Implementation Guidelines - This document outlines the BRWA’s implementation guidelines for drought adaptation and management in the Battle River and Sounding Creek watersheds in Alberta. One of the guidelines in this document is to limit removal of treed areas/shelterbelts and to develop planting programs.
A Green Infrastructure Guide for Small Cities, Towns and Rural Communities – This guide provides an overview of hedgerows as well as resources, however it doesn’t specifically discuss protection of hedgerows. This document also provides case studies of various other tools, primarily green infrastructure tools, including the use of hedgerows.
Did we miss something?
If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!