‘Nothing to restrict normal farm practices’
BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL
Staff South Glengarry council is turning to a respected source for feedback on the township’s proposed Tree Canopy and Natural Vegetation Policy.
“I suggest this policy be brought to our recently-appointed ag committee, for their input or approval, before it comes back for a third reading,” Coun. Sam McDonell said following the first reading of the policy during the regular meeting of March 18.
Coun. Martin Lang concurred. “I think it’s great that we’ve got something here that we can start talking about, but I think it may need a little bit of work,” he said. “I definitely want the ag committee to be looking at it.”
And while Coun. Lang stated that he would like to see that review take place “sooner, rather than later,” he pointed out that council shouldn’t feel rushed.
“From what I understand, the Province did have a deadline, but that was the previous provincial government. This government is not pushing it, so we can make sure that we take our time and get something that we can live with.”
Coun. Stephanie Jaworksi suggested that the township could also seek input from the Raisin Region Conservation Authority as part of the review process. She favours the idea of “incentivizing” local residents to conform with the policy – if it is ultimately adopted by the municipality.
“Maybe there are tax rebates, no taxing...I know there are mechanisms out there now, but some of them are onerous, or too restrictive, especially for non-farm operations,” added Coun. Jaworski.
Joanne Haley, the township’s general manager of community services, who has put together the proposed policy, and would be responsible for monitoring its implementation, explained that council and municipal staff have a great deal of leeway when it comes to drawing up and finalizing the initiative.
“Bill 68 ( the need for a tree canopy and natural vegetation policy, but if you read that piece of legislation, there’s no explanation around exactly what’s required,” said Mrs. Haley. “It really leaves it up to the municipalities to create a policy that they’re happy with.”
According to the township’s proposal, “tree canopy” is defined as “all areas of coverage by plant material which includes the layer of leaves, branches and stems that cover the ground when viewed from above.”
“Natural vegetation” refers to “plant life that grows naturally in a geographical region.”
Such growth is described as a “valuable resource” that provides “timber, fruits, medicinal plants, shelter to animals, oxygen, and protects soil and stores water.”
Mrs. Haley informed council that the policy contains a number of priority actions that are “easily” achievable, and “should have minimal impact” on the municipal budget and staff time.
Among those actions: aiming to prevent tree removal from open and unopened road allowances within the township, as well as tree removal on township-owned land; increasing tree planting on township-owned land, “especially within public parks,” where possible; and municipal support for “residents and others in developing tree planting plans that ensure the long-term survival” of those plantings.
Mrs. Haley also reassured members of the local agricultural community that they’re unlikely to be significantly affected by the new protocol.
“There is nothing in this policy that is intended to restrict normal farm practices as defined by the
she said. “And I think it’s important to keep that in the policy...It will allow a farmer to farm within their rights, within that legislation.”
As discussions on the matter concluded, council directed Mrs. Haley to organize a meeting of the township’s Agricultural Resource Committee in the next two or three weeks, allowing that body to deliberate and review the proposed policy before it comes back before council.