Saanich council will be asked next week to impose a temporary moratorium on tree cutting — specifically Garry oaks — including all native species.
First-term Coun. Nathalie Chambers said she is seeking the moratorium because the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw is no longer in effect. It was rescinded by the previous council on April 23, 2018.
She wants staff to look at options for immediate implementation of a conservation strategy that would protect the same ecosystem assets as the EDPA bylaw once did.
“I got elected to protect the remaining farmland, green spaces and trees in Saanich and that’s what I am going to do,” Chambers said in an interview. “The opposition is a minor amount, but they have a lot of microphones.
“Council is at the forefront of a climate change emergency,” said Chambers, in her report to council. “It will take approximately two years to rebuild a new EDPA bylaw, with an interim measure possibly taking a year.”
Saanich council is expected to discuss Chambers’ plan at its Monday meeting.
Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA Society has sent out an “urgent call for action” encouraging members to “fill the council chambers to show council we will not tolerate the reinstatement of the EDPA bylaw.”
Society president Anita Bull said Chambers’ recommendation is a de facto request to reinstate the EDPA.
A moratorium on cutting down trees in Saanich “would put an absolute halt on any development in Saanich,” said Bull.
Bull said the recommendation is not logical as it would affect trees cut to protect municipal infrastructure and in parks, for example. “I don’t see it as a good way forward at all,” said Bull.
Chambers is undeterred by the pushback: “I got elected because I can make those decisions.” The absence of an EDPA bylaw has left “this critical biodiversity, necessary for resilience and adaptive management, without adequate protection,” she said.
Chambers said she’s not anti-development and she is not trying to replace the EDPA — she’s trying to “fill a conservation gap.”
“I am trying to get some coverage, some protection that is missing as a result of the rescinding of the EDPA,” Chambers said.
“l don’t believe that current owners have the right to destroy the land so that future generations cannot meet their needs.”
The EDPA bylaw was passed in 2012 with the goal of protecting sensitive ecosystems on about 2,200 private properties. It was meant to protect sensitive and threatened environmental areas containing endangered species and habitats, including Garry oak ecosystems.
After a contentious public hearing, Saanich council voted 5-4 to rescind the bylaw in November 2017. Then-mayor Richard Atwell and councillors Susan Brice, Leif Wergeland, Karen Harper and Fred Haynes, the current mayor, voted for the bylaw to be rescinded.
Councillors Colin Plant, Judy Brownoff, Dean Murdock and Vicki Sanders voted to keep it.
In rescinding the bylaw, council directed staff to come back with a report suggesting alternative approaches to protecting ecosystems in Saanich.