It is 7:30 a.m. on 11 March, as I watch yet another logging truck full of massive Douglas fir logs roll up my [South Langley] street removing another load of the more than 100 trees that before March 5 were part of a forest abutting a Class A fish-bearing stream, I shake my head in dismay knowing that this was done under a permit issued by the Township of Langley.
The first cuts to this forest were initiated illegally on 5 March, but when the Township (TOL) was notified, the TOL provided a permit within 24 hours. That permit enabled the landowner to cut over 100 trees, including 56 very large and mature Douglas firs (one of which was over 150 year old, effectively an old growth tree), five big leaf maples, 25 western red cedar and a western hemlock, all on a land parcel of 4.2 acres located directly above a Class A stream.
In 2008, the Township of Langley published a Wildlife Habitat Conservation Strategy. And in it the strategy says:
“The Township of Langley strives to take a leadership role in minimizing the adverse effects development has on existing wildlife habitat by promoting environmental values such as biodiversity and sustainability within the Township. To this end the Township embraces the following corporate goals and objectives to protect our environment: create an environmental policy framework for the future of Langley that sets priorities for identifying, preserving and restoring natural environmentally sensitive areas including the wetlands, lead in promoting environmentally sound practices and education of the public, ensure land management processes are environmentally sensitive, promote community participation and stewardship programs, and protect our water resources.”
In 2019, the Township declared a Climate Emergency and developed a Climate Strategy that:
‘’will work to tackle causes of climate change through actions to cut carbon pollution.”
In 2020, the Township council endorsed the terms of reference for the Community Forest Management strategy which sets out a “clear direction for the protection, preservation and planting of trees and forests. “
Yet in 2021, TOL are issuing permits to allow large numbers of native trees to be cut down and this loss of 100 trees described above is not the only case of forest destruction under permit on private lands in the TOL in the past two years. Even with the so-called ‘tree protection’ bylaw that exists now, the Township’s hands ‘are not tied’ due to their weak bylaw if they only applied principles set in their own Wildlife Conservation Strategy, and the terms of reference of their own community forest strategy, and their Climate Action Strategy.
Furthermore, the bylaw includes an ‘option’ to require a thorough examination and advice regarding the proposed tree cutting by professional arborists and biologists. There is a need by TOL to ultimately ask before handing out permits: ‘is there a very strong justification, especially based on the wildlife, forestry and climate strategies of the TOL, for removing healthy trees from our urban forest?”
It is not just a bylaw that needs revision to bring it up to the standard of protection of, at least, our neighbouring communities of Surrey, White Rock and Abbotsford, but there needs to be a change of mindset by TOL officials and decision-makers when forests like this one can be clear cut in 2021 with Township approval.
John Elliott, Langley
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