Members wary of debate
South Glengarry township will be holding a public consultation meeting on its proposed tree canopy and natural vegetation policy.
And while council passed a motion to do so at its most recent regular meeting (June 3), it wasn’t without some apprehension.
“What are we trying to do here?” asked Councillor Martin Lang. “The need for a policy was put in by the previous (provincial) government. The government that’s in there now has said that they’re not looking for anything too substantial. They’re not even going to be checking to see if we have anything.”
He added that “we do support tree canopy,” but that he had “no intention of passing anything that’s going to tell people that they can or cannot cut trees on their property.”
He was also concerned that opening the matter up to public discussion could generate “controversy.” Councillor Sam McDonell told his colleagues that he “wasn’t against opening it up” for discussion. However, he agreed that the tree canopy and natural vegetation issue may be too divisive for a public forum. “We’re going to have one extreme sitting in the crowd here, with the other extreme,” said Coun. McDonell. “I don’t think it’s something you want to open yourself up to.”
He also pointed out that “the heavy stakeholders,” whom he described as the “group of developers... who work very well with the township and who have done a lot of work here,” should “be consulted first.”
Deputy-Mayor Lyle Warden concurred with Coun. Lang, stating that he didn’t want to put “any moratoriums on anybody’s private property.”
But he was in favour of soliciting the community’s input.
“I feel it would be good to engage the public and have a discussion,” said the deputy-mayor.
“I think there are ways that we can promote canopy growth while respecting the agricultural community... And I think there are some solutions out there that respect both sides, in a pragmatic way.”
Councillor Stephanie Jaworski felt public input would be a valuable tool in helping to shape the policy.
“As this process has been going on, I’ve had more people reach out to me,” she said. “And there are a good number of those people whom I respect. I think they’re fairly reasonable people and if they want to participate, I think we should involve them.” Mr. Warden concluded the discussion on the matter by reiterating the importance of an inclusive consultation process.
“We’re all stakeholders here. We’re all stewards of the land,” he said. “I think most landowners can also be part of the solution, and can help find something that’s good.”
There is nothing in this policy that would restrict normal farm practices as defined by the Farm Practices Protection Act.
Farmers account for most of the deforestation in the area.
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 Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry had a 29 per cent forest cover. South Glengarry’s forest cover had decreased from 30.6 per cent to 28.7 per cent between 2008 and 2014.