Tree Protection Bylaw

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What is it?

A Tree Protection Bylaw prohibits damage to trees and regulates tree removal. The bylaw may require a permit for tree removal, and may set out mitigation requirements such as rules for  tree replacement. Tree Protection Bylaws can be applied based on type of tree (e.g., species, diameter), number of trees impacted, or by a defined area. An effective Tree Protection Bylaw will prohibit the removal or damage of trees in environmentally sensitive areas, riparian areas, floodplains, and steep slopes to protect the integrity of the natural infrastructure system.

How can municipalities use it?

Municipalities can establish a Tree Protection Bylaw to protect trees from development, land use activities, and to prevent the spread of tree-related disease. A Tree Protection Bylaw can require development applications identify trees and prioritize reducing impact to trees, as well as require compensation for trees impacted. Municipalities can require residents to seek approval for tree damage or removal on their property, however Tree Protection Bylaws generally focus on municipally-owned tress.

What are the advantages?

The advantages of a Tree Protection Bylaw include:

  • Potential to protect and restore urban forest

  • Helps protect the integrity of the watershed

  • Can coordinate with landscape requirements

  • Offers an opportunity to educate community members on the importance of native trees and other vegetation

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. The following should be considered when considering a Tree Protection Bylaw:

  • Can be difficult to enforce without mapping of trees or without a witness to the tree cutting or damage

  • May not apply if it would inhibit the permitted use or density of a property

  • Exceptions to the bylaw can be complex

  • May not have the support of all residents (i.e., those who wish to cut down trees on their property)

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

A Tree Protection Bylaw helps to maintain natural infrastructure by ensuring that trees remain in important areas, such as riparian areas, environmentally sensitive areas, and habitat corridors. Trees provide habitat, stabilize soil, and contribute to clean air and water. As such, all aspects of the natural infrastructure system are maintained when a municipality succeeds in maintaining the urban forest.

Resources

Green Bylaws Toolkit for Conserving Sensitive Ecosystems and Green Infrastructure – A toolkit produced by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre for municipalities in British Columbia. Section 14.5 offers information on Tree Protection Bylaws and case studies.


City of Medicine Hat Tree Preservation Bylaw – Medicine Hat passed a bylaw in 2014 to protect the urban forest and prevent the spread of tree related diseases.


Town of Canmore Tree Protection BylawCanmore’s tree protection bylaw requires development applications to identify public trees on site. If trees must be removed, a fee valued by an arborist is collected from the developer.


Green Infrastructure in Calgary’s Mobility Corridors – This project proposes design principles and green infrastructure strategies to help the City of Calgary maximize environmental benefits in mobility corridors. This document explains the importance of protecting urban canopy by several means, including the Calgary Tree Protection Bylaw.


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!

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