Tax-free forests?

Group sug­gests breaks, free trees to counter clear-cut­ting

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - A Best Man­age­ment Plan guide would em­pha­size the val­ues and ben­e­fits of pro­tect­ing ri­par­ian ar­eas and wind­breaks, in­clud­ing

Tax breaks, bill­boards and free trees are part of a cam­paign that is to be launched this fall in an ef­fort to counter the ef­fects of wide­spread de­for­esta­tion in East­ern On­tario.

The launch of a bilin­gual com­mu­nity cam­paign, us­ing bill­boards, to pro­mote for­est con­ser­va­tion and tree plant­ing is one of the rec­om­men­da­tions made by the For­est Con­ser­va­tion Work­ing Group (FCWG), which was set up by South Na­tion Con­ser­va­tion (SNC) to fol­low up on sug­ges­tions made by the Agri­cul­tural For­est Cover Com­mit­tee (AFCC) in 2017.

The FCWG also calls for com­mu­nity “free tree” days, part­ner­ing with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to of­fer seedlings to landown­ers to en­cour­age tree plant­ing, and more promotion of tax in­cen­tives for farm­ers to main­tain or plant forests.

“En­cour­age mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to con­sider a 0% tax rate on forested land” is an­other sug­ges­tion made by the FCWG.

While for­est loss has been thor­oughly stud­ied, lo­cal gov­ern­ments have taken lit­tle con­crete ac­tion to curb clear-cut­ting.

In its re­port the FCWG rec­om­mends that “mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties con­sider tree con­ser­va­tion by­laws” and fi­nance new for­est cover ini­tia­tives.

“With the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion oc­cur­ring in Oc­to­ber 2018, there is a need to in­form new coun­cil­lors on the sta­tus of for­est cover in the SNC ju­ris­dic­tion, the im­por­tance of for­est con­ser­va­tion, and the need for fund­ing sup­port to pro­tect and in­crease tree cover. An in­for­ma­tion pack­age will be cre­ated for new coun­cil ori­en­ta­tions which will in­clude in­for­ma­tion on the sta­tus of for­est cover and rec­om­men­da­tions for pro­tect­ing and in­creas­ing for­est cover,” the re­port reads.

The group says SNC should take the lead in lob­by­ing the provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments for more for­est con­ser­va­tion funds

Best man­age­ment prac­tices

guide­lines for pro­tec­tion dur­ing land clear­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Landown­ers choose to clear land for var­i­ous rea­sons, while this of­ten re­sults in loss of for­est cover, there are op­por­tu­ni­ties, through best man­age­ment prac­tices, to main­tain crit­i­cal tree cover in ar­eas such as ri­par­ian buf­fers and wind­breaks,” the re­port says.

Ini­tially the SNC set aside $100,000 for the AFCC. The re­main­ing $70,000 was car­ried into 2018 to sup­port the new work­ing group and its rec­om­men­da­tions.

Seedling sub­si­dies

Other ini­tia­tives in­clude tree plant­ing sub­sidy for “over the counter” seedlings for ri­par­ian buf­fer and wind­break plant­ings, wood­lot vis­its and eval­u­at­ing buf­fer demon­stra­tion sites that could be used for pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als.

Long-term im­pact

On­go­ing for­est loss in Stor­mont-Dun­dasGlen­garry “has the po­ten­tial to create lon­greach­ing im­pacts for now and the fu­ture,” coun­ties plan­ner Ali­son McDon­ald cau­tioned county coun­cil mem­bers re­cently.

“Gov­ern­ments are chal­lenged with bal­anc­ing prop­erty rights and pro­tect­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment that works to ben­e­fit us all,” she said in a re­port that noted govern­ment in­flu­ence on clear-cut­ting is limited be­cause most of the land is pri­vately owned.

Ex­perts have deter­mined that a min­i­mum 30 per cent for­est cover is re­quired to main­tain a healthy, sus­tain­able ecosys­tem.

A for­est cover anal­y­sis com­pleted in 2014 con­firmed that SDG had a 29 per cent for­est cover.

For­est cover map­ping, up­dated ev­ery six years, will not be re­freshed again un­til 2020.

De­for­esta­tion is hav­ing an im­pact on drink­ing water in the area, where qual­ity ranges from “ex­cel­lent” to “very poor,” and shrink­ing for­est cover has con­trib­uted to “stressed” con­di­tions in the South Na­tion River water­shed, the SNC re­lated in its State of the Na­tion Water­shed Re­port Card.

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