The Globe and Mail: Letters to the Editor
June 2, 1995
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Toronto City Council could not have thought up a surer way to destroy the urban forest than to pass a bylaw forbidding property owners to sell trees without the city’s permission (Columnist Breaks Law, Kills Tree – May 19).
With a stroke of a pen, council has turned big trees – once valuable assets – into liabilities. It has given property owners an incentive to immediately cut down trees under 30 centimeters in diameter, just in case they might someday want to build an addition, grow flowers or vegetables, or sell their home. It has given amateurs reason to poison larger trees, with untold environmental harm. Likewise, it has discouraged even avid tree lovers from planting maples, oaks or other large shade trees in favour of safer – read smaller – alternatives.
Property rights have long served to protect our forests, urban and rural alike. Private owners have demonstrated that, on the whole, they value their trees and don’t cut them down lightly. Depriving citizens of their property rights by turning their backyards into a city-run commons creates perverse incentives and can only lead to tragic consequences for those concerned about the quality of urban life.