Campbell River seeking eagle tree protection

Mayor dismayed to find the city did not have any penalties for chopping down eagle nesting trees

More than one year after a high-profile case involving a resident cutting down an eagle tree, council is trying to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

After the incident in February, 2012, around Galerno Road, Mayor Walter Jakeway was dismayed to find the city did not have any penalties for chopping down eagle nesting trees.

That prompted the mayor to bring forward a motion, approved by council at a meeting in early March, directing city staff to look into options for a bylaw to protect eagle trees.

“We need to make something happen here so we don’t end up with another terrible event like we had a year ago,” Jakeway said at the time. “It was more than a year ago that a fairly substantial eagle tree was cut down near Rockland Road.

“At that time it was discovered that we didn’t have any teeth to our bylaw and I haven’t heard any feedback from staff in the past year on this and I don’t want it to slip away.”

In last year’s incident, the tree was registered in the province’s nest tree database and mapped in the city’s Sustainable Official Community Plan as an environmentally sensitive area and protected under the Provincial Wildlife Act.

Currently, the province is in charge of enforcing eagle nest tree protection and levying any fines while the city simply uses permit guidelines to restrict a property owner from causing a disturbance within a 60-metre area around an eagle nest. However, the city does not have fines or penalties written into law.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, staff presented a report with options for a new bylaw.

“Staff are currently preparing a draft Environmental Protection Bylaw (in regards to watercourse and storm drainage protection) and an efficient approach would be to include a section on bald eagle nest tree habitat,” said Terri Martin, the city’s environmental co-ordinator in a report to council.

Martin said the bylaw could include a prohibition on the removal or damage of any tree previously or currently used by bald eagles as determined by an environmental professional; prohibition of land disturbance within a bald eagle nest tree development permit area; regulate and establish requirements for the removal, preservation, protection and replacement of all trees within the bald eagle nest tree development permit area, and finally, penalties for damaging or removing protected eagle habitat without a permit.

According to the Community Charter, the maximum fine available is $10,000 and the maximum amount of a fine in relation to a ticket offence is $1,000, said Martin who noted that each tree removed can count as a separate offence.

“The proposed prohibitions would enable ticketing for non-compliance with the bald eagle nest tree development permit process for mapped nest sites included in the SOCP (sustainable official community plan),” Martin said. “New bald eagle nest sites would also be subject to the bylaw which would provide some protection to the nest tree until the SOCP is amended to include the location and the broader buffer protection.”

Council agreed with Martin’s recommendations and elected to have staff draft a bylaw prohibiting the cutting and damage of eagle nesting habitat, including trees.