The less said the better
Balance. The term is so versatile. It can refer to a bank account total, an action, a state of equilibrium, or a life goal. We can lose our balance; we can go off-balance. We are told that we must seek balance in our lives, achieve a healthy mix of work and play.
“Balance” is also the latest term being used to try to delicately broach the very sensitive topic of deforestation.
“Governments are challenged with balancing property rights and protecting the natural environment that works to benefit us all,” reads a report Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry planner Alison McDonald recently submitted to council members.
Before farmers begin firing up the chainsaws, remember that there is not now, nor will there be in the near future, any serious attempt by governments to curb the right to chop down trees in Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry.
Despite hand-wringing about unabated forest cover loss, and reports documenting the impact of clear-cutting, there are no plans to limit tree removal in the three counties.
In fact, many tree huggers are reluctant to even mention tree conservation bylaws because they fear jittery land owners may be provoked into razing whatever trees may remain on their properties. Do not incite farmers to kill more trees. It is understandable that, if there are rumblings that tree-cutting restrictions might be imposed one day, that property owners are going to clear as much land as they can now.
Nobody has the right to tell people what they can do on their own land. Most of the land is privately owned, so even if there was even a modicum of political will to curb deforestation, governments would be powerless.
Obviously, municipalities, counties and the provincial government will not usurp property rights.
Plus, with the new provincial Government For The People determined to gut any “green” policies left over from the dreaded Liberals’ reign, clear-cutting will be permitted, if not actively encouraged, for at least the next four years.
But clearly, this is not a good situation, as we are reminded in the final report of 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.
Like the AFCC, the FCWG meekly suggests that something could be done. The group recommends that municipalities be “encouraged” to consider tax breaks for the owners of forested land, and that “munici- palities consider tree conservation bylaws” and finance new forest cover initiatives.
Deforestation will not become a hot issue in the current run-up to the municipal elections.
Yet the report may provide some talking points for the few municipal council candidates who might raise the vote-losing subject.
No candidate is about to stick his or her neck out and proclaim the need for a tree conservation law. But other seemingly harmless ideas may be safe to reference. For example, the FCWG calls for a bilingual community campaign, using billboards to promote forest conservation and tree planting. Nobody could oppose “free tree” days. And information is always a good thing.
“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.
Candidates ought to be all right if they make the mandatory clucking sounds about vague terms such as sustainability and the environment. But any reference to tree conservation rules would be fraught with potential political blowback.
Trees have become a delicate topic. Talking publicly about the need to save trees is akin to trying to fell a widow maker, dangling precariously over a hydro line, near a house, in a rainstorm. Last year, an attempt was made to start a dialogue. “We feel it is time to begin a conversation about the place of forests and trees in North Glengarry,” said a group of citizens trying to persuade North Glengarry to enact a forest conservation bylaw. Of course nothing happened. At the same time, the AFCC noted in its 2017 report, “Agriculture is the most predominant land use in Eastern Ontario and is a huge economic driver in the region. The instrumental role that local agricultural community plays in our economy necessitates the high level of collaboration required to address the management of forests.”
Since governments and crop producers aren’t about to take a tree-friendly stand, the solution is obvious.
Like trees? Start planting.