Ecology Ottawa Delegation Opposes Tewin Clear-Cutting

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Ecology Ottawa gave a delegation at the meeting of City Council's Environment and Climate Change Committee in opposition to the recent destruction of over 70 hectares of forested lands at the city's southeast edge. 

That the Committee discussed this item at all represented a win for the community: in order to be considered, the item needed to be "lifted" onto the agenda by a vote of at least two-thirds of the Committee, given the short notice with which it was proposed for consideration. Several organizations and over 100 Ecology Ottawa supporters mobilized in short order to send emails to Committee members, requesting that this item be considered—and sure enough, the Committee lifted the item onto the agenda. Congratulations to all!

 

The Tewin clear-cutting being lifted onto the agenda meant that the twelve individuals and organizations who had registered to give delegations could address the committee on the topic. Ecology Ottawa gave the first delegation, which you may watch here or read below. We strongly encourage you to watch all twelve of the delegations, however, as they cover a wide range of important aspects surrounding the Tewin clear-cutting, including the suitability of wetlands for farming, the impact of the clear-cutting on the local community, what legally constitutes a farming operation, and developer influence on the City. It should be noted as well that no delegate stood up to defend the actions taken by the Tewin landowners.

As far as outcomes of the proceedings today, the Committee is preparing formal direction to City staff to 

  • investigate potential changes to the Tree Protection Bylaw to require landowners to obtain a formal exemption when they wish to clear land without a permit for an agricultural operation, and also notify the City and the affected community, and 
  • refer the land in question to the Normal Farming Practices Protection Board to ensure that the operation indeed constitutes a normal farming practice under existing legislation 

This direction will go before City Council at a future meeting.

For our part, we also signed a letter sent to City Council in coalition with four other organizations and two members of the Carlsbad Springs community with an expanded version of the requests that we listed in our delegation. While we’ll be following this issue closely in coming days, you can still take action by contacting your councillor to express your concern about this issue, as well as signing our petition and sending our form email.

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Ecology Ottawa's delegation:

We were outraged when we learned that earlier this year, 70 hectares of land in the southeast corner of our city had been stripped of its trees. We were appalled by the photos circulating in the media of enormous piles of trunks with machinery beside them, and of what was recently the habitat of animals reduced to bare ground. We were shocked to hear that this destruction was conducted under cover of night, behind a buffer of trees that concealed the carnage from the community. And we were incensed that while the landowners had insisted that the Carlsbad Springs community would be consulted throughout the process of developing these lands, they had not heard a word about these operations.

It came as a relief to us, then, to hear that the City imposed a stop-work order on this ruthless operation—even if it took five days for them to do so. Surely, we thought, the destruction was over. To our shocked horror, however, the City lifted the work order on March 7, permitting the destruction to continue. And in fact, the landowners enjoy the City’s blessing to this very moment.

As members of the Environment and Climate Change Committee, on a day that the United Nations has designated International Day of Forests, you don’t need me to remind you of the critical importance of trees. Apart from their inherent value, these trees were also habitat to 70 hectares of wildlife—birds, mammals, insects—some of which are rare or endangered. They were part of our best defense against climate change, removing carbon from the atmosphere and purifying the air that we all breathe. They managed humidity levels, soaking up excess stormwater and keeping the land moist during dry periods. 

Yet despite these benefits, and despite City Council having declared a climate emergency in 2019, City staff gave its approval to this senseless deforestation.

We are, as I mentioned, outraged. So, too, are hundreds of Ottawans. On March 2, we launched a petition calling on the City to investigate the clear-cutting, to hold the landowners accountable, to take steps to prevent future clear-cutting, and to increase funding to enforce the Tree Protection Bylaw. To date, over 600 people from across the city have signed this petition. We also provided a form email with similar requests. To date, almost 1000 of these emails have gone out. We also co-organized a rally in Carlsbad Springs on March 12 to protest the ecological devastation; people from across the region braved the cold and stood up for trees and community members. Finally, we encouraged Ottawans to ask members of this committee that the clear-cutting be discussed today. We know that at least 100 emails to this effect were sent.

Again, Ottawans are furious. We’re furious about the trees destroyed, which could number anywhere from 25,000 to 70,000. We’re furious that the City, in full knowledge of this destruction, gave it the go-ahead. We’re furious that the Tree Protection Bylaw is unable to prevent the most egregious case of forest destruction. And we’re furious because the many, many hectares of forest around the City could suffer the same fate.

Obviously, it’s too late to save this forest. The damage is done. Here’s what we’re asking:

  1. Transparency: how did the City come to the decision to lift the stop-work order?
  2. Future protections: A requirement that groups show in advance that they’re an agricultural operation before claiming this exemption to the relevant bylaws
  3. A review of the Tree Protection Bylaw and an acceleration of aspects relating to the rural and peri-urban boundary so that this loophole is not exploited again
  4. Support for the Carlsbad Springs community’s request that the trees destroyed be replaced at least 1:1
  5. That the landowners place an agricultural easement on the property in question, emphasizing regenerative practices, since they now claim that their intentions are agricultural

We have heard that this Mayor and Council have ambitious plans to plant trees and reforest the canopy—and that needs to be complemented by protecting the trees and forests that we already steward. I will be watching your deliberations today—I and the hundreds of Ottawans who understand the value of our precious forests.

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