Tree cutting ban harmful, environmental group says

Paul Moloney
The Toronto Star
September 29, 1995

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Toronto’s ban on cutting healthy, mature trees on private property will likely do more harm than good, an environ­mental group warns.
The four-month-old ban en­courages property owners to fell trees they would otherwise leave alone, said Elizabeth Bru­baker, executive director of En­vironment Probe.
The ban, now under review at city hall, forbids cutting trees 30 centimetres or more in diameter without permission and imposes fines up to $10,000.
It gives property owners an incentive to cut trees before they reach that size, or plant or­namental trees instead of oaks and maples, Brubaker said yes­terday.
Environment Probe, part of the Energy Probe Research Foundation, issued its warning in a submission to a public hear­ing on the ban yesterday at city hall.
“With a stroke of a pen, coun­cil turned big trees — once valu­able assets — into liabilities,” said Brubaker.
She called the ban bureau­cratic overkill and argued the $250,000 a year it costs to ad­minister would be better spent planting trees.
“Now all of a sudden, if you have a treed property, you have something to be nervous about. Let’s say you’re thinking of building a deck or a room in the next 10 years. Why not cut the tree down when it reaches 29 centimetres?”
“’People are not stupid.”
Parks Commissioner Herb Pirk defended the ban.
He told the public hearing it has saved about 40 trees in the past four months and has pre­vented damage to trees by forc­ing people to alter building and landscaping plans.
The ban was attacked by Councillor Rob Maxwell, who said it’s generally agreed that wanton tree cutting is not a big problem.
“My question is, if people generally are not cutting down trees irresponsibly, why do we need to spend $250,000 a year?”
Councillor John Adams backed the ban, citing a case in the Annex where a developer damaged the roots of a neigh­bor’s tree and Adams was forced to admit he was power­less to intervene.
Adams noted Toronto is the first city to impose a tree-cutting ban, after municipalities were
given that power by the provin­cial government last spring. Unless the power is used, there’s a danger the new Mike Harris government might take it away, he said.
After the public hearing, councillors on the neighbor­hoods committee upheld the ban, while recommending some species be exempted — Manito­ba maple, Siberian elm, mulber­ry, willow and poplar.
The issue goes to city council Oct 16.
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