Ecology Ottawa asks City Council to Prevent Future Clear-Cutting

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Ecology Ottawa sent a letter on March 21 in coalition with four other organizations and two members of the Carlsbad Springs community asking Ottawa City Council to take action on the clear-cutting of Tewin lands and prevent further such tree carnage elsewhere in the city. This letter constituted an expanded version of the requests that we listed in our delegation to Council's Environment and Climate Change Committee earlier that day. Please read the letter below!

The next step, as far as the City is concerned, is to finalize formal direction to staff and send it to Council to vote on (date tbd), as you can read here. You can take action in the meantime 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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March 21, 2023

To City of Ottawa Councillors,

Re: Deforestation on the property at GLOUCESTER CON 7 PT LOTS 16 to 20 in violation of the Tree Protection By-Law, 2020-340 and the Site Alteration By-Law 2018-164.

 

As a summary of the expertise gathered from across residents and organizations listed below, compiled through community dialogues, a review of media articles, discussion with City staff, and drawn from expertise gathered from individuals and groups in Ottawa and across Ontario, we are asking for the following actions in relation to the deforestation incident in Carlsbad Springs:

 

Immediate Action:

We are asking City Council to issue a further stop work-order until the two issues allowing for an exemption are sufficiently addressed: 1) confirming the owners requesting the exemption are an agricultural operation and, 2) via the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board, that the owners’ current practice of deforestation is confirmed as a normal farm practice. 

 

Process

Related to Process, we request:

  1. A written record of the statutes and analysis undertaken directly by City staff—that led to the decision to provide an exemption and lift the stop work order—to be shared with stakeholders, including those organizations listed below, within 2 weeks from the Environment Committee meeting on March 21, 2023.  This will allow clarification of the legal issues that may still need to be addressed to close the loophole that permits pre-emptive deforestation, and to strengthen transparency with the community.
  2. A new process in Ottawa that:
    • requires information to be provided by landowners in advance of tree removal that demonstrates eligibility as an agricultural business, with clear and significant consequences for not doing so. Entities cannot continue to be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they qualify for an agricultural  exemption, and leave the City and community to deal with, and suffer the consequences, after the fact.
    • clearly outlines the definition of an agricultural operation being used by the City, in relation to other statutes and possible definitions.
    • clearly outlines that any interpretation required as to what constitutes a Normal Farm Practice will be deferred by the City to the province’s Normal Farm Practices Protection Board for that interpretation
    • requires an assessment of a proposed exemption to the Tree Protection and/or Site Alteration By-law to include impact on the adjacent lands and watersheds (surface water system, surrounding wetlands, ground water), biodiversity, and alignment with the City’s Climate Change Strategy (once finalized).  This should relate to areas within the urban boundary, and within 2 km of the existing urban boundary.
  3. The review of the Tree Protection Bylaw, including matters related to the rural/peri-urban area (within 2 km of the urban boundary), to be accelerated by City staff and completed within 2023.  This policy has been under review  since 2017, and includes policy dealing with prohibition of pre-emptive deforestation.

  

Consequences

Related to consequences, if—as it seems to date—the owner of the property in question is not an agricultural operation, and therefore not eligible for an exemption, and considering that the deforestation destroyed an estimated 25,000 trees bringing ecosystem functions of benefit to the neighbouring community, we request City Council confirm that restitution is required, and we ask for the following consequences:

  1. Owners replace the trees they removed by paying the full cost to professionally replant a minimum of 35,000 trees (include a buffer multiplier for seedling loss), within the same rural area by the the close of 2023, including 20% of these to be edible trees (sap, nut, fruit). This is in line with the municipal policy to provide no net loss for Ottawa’s tree canopy.
  2. Owners support the community of Carlsbad Springs in their request for a tree fund, with a minimum of 1000 free trees per year, for a minimum of 25 years, in order to rebuild trust in the community and help them protect their lands. 
  3. That given the owner cleared the land with the stated intention of agriculture, that the owners be required to place an agricultural easement on the full property that was clearcut, in perpetuity, and commit to emphasize regenerative agricultural practices. The loss of one community of trees and related wildlife must be  replaced with a lasting community asset in farmland, that is sustainably managed going forward, and cannot be developed any further. 

These consequences are considered proportionate and significant to deter future attempts to misuse the Tree Protection Bylaw and Site Alteration Bylaw by other non-agricultural landowners.

 

Signed:

Paul Johanis - Greenspace Alliance

Alice Irene Whittaker - Ecology Ottawa

Sam Hersh - Horizon Ottawa

Moe Garahan - Just Food

Angela Keller-Herzog - CAFES

Residents of Carlsbad Springs Pamela O’Donnell and Monica Brewer

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