More trees razed in Gatineau ... “for development”
In the last few weeks, we have seen in our local newspapers a profusion of reports on the razing of blocks of trees in Gatineau for development of one form or another. This is usually followed by raucous outrage from concerned citizens and resident associations. The proponent of the development then promises to plant a few small trees from the nursery, then life carries on. This absurd cycle of waste of human capital, time, money and energy must stop!
The City of Gatineau has already declared itself as a city affected by climate change and wishes to be a leader in climate adaptation. Cutting trees, especially mature native trees in areas purportedly protected, will not support this commitment. Council members should do a simple search on Google Earth from 2000 to today to reveal to themselves the already significant loss of forest canopy in our city. When will this end?
Trees improve the livability of our cities in countless ways. They produce oxygen and clean carbon dioxide from the air we breathe, and reduce smog. Trees lower temperatures with shade, helping to reduce air conditioning bills and energy use. They protect our land by preventing erosion and retaining water in the soil to prevent flooding. Houses with trees have shown a consistent 10-15% increase in property value. Finally, the benefits of providing natural habitats for birds and other native wildlife, are immeasurable.
Canada as a country has committed to an international goal of protecting at least 17% of our terrestrial ecosystems by the year 2020, under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the current government, along with many other countries, will be pursuing to protect 30% by 2030.
To prevent our ongoing cycle of development-versus-environment in the future, the City of Gatineau must identify now in its planning documents the areas it wishes to protect, and areas open for development. Let us work with experts, in consultation with stakeholders, which 30% of our city of high natural value requires protection (e.g. mature forests; wetlands; habitat for endangered species). Then the City can purchase or exchange land for them and pass strong enforceable laws to protect the benefits these areas will provide for future generations. This will allow our business and investment communities with the certainty they require while safeguarding the city’s natural heritage for all.
Executive Director for Ecological Integrity, Parks Canada (retired)