City beefs up new environment bylaw with new fines

The bylaw also gives city staff the tools it needs to address issues around inadequate wildlife tree protection

City council has adopted a new set of laws and penalties that provide for protection of eagle nest trees.

A series of fines that range from $250 to $500 were approved by council at last week’s Tuesday meeting and go hand-in-hand with a new Environmental Protection Bylaw.

Terri Martin, the city’s environmental coordinator, said the bylaw protects the city’s natural environment including watercourses, trees, soils, lands and outstanding natural features.

Martin said the bylaw also gives city staff the tools it needs to address issues around inadequate wildlife tree protection.

“Staff are already responding to a wide array of environmental issues and development permit non-compliances,” Martin wrote in a report to council. “Without the appropriate tools to address these issues, staff spend considerable time seeking alternate routes and encouraging senior governments to take action on the city’s behalf, often with little success.”

The most recent complaint was a high-profile case in February 2012 involving a resident who had a Douglas fir tree with a large eagle’s nest cut down on his property.

At that time, the province was in charge of enforcing eagle nest tree protection and levying any fines.

The extent of the city’s crackdown on cutting down eagle nest trees only went so far as permit guidelines to restrict a property owner from causing a disturbance within a 60-metre area around an eagle nest.

The property owner in the 2012 incident, however, was eventually fined $10,000 through provincial court in 2013 while the city did not have fines or penalties written into law.

Council asked city staff at that time to look into stricter rules and fines to deter and hold property owners accountable.

The end result is a bylaw that, among other things, comes with a set of fines related to eagle nest trees.

Removal of a bald eagle nesting tree without notifying an environmental protection official comes with a $500 penalty, as does damaging a bald eagle nest tree roots within the drip line and operating heavy equipment within the bald eagle nest tree’s drip line.

Developing within 60 metres of a bald eagle nest tree without a development permit will also garner a fine of $500.

The bylaw dictates that an eagle nest tree cannot be cut down, trimmed, root planed, topped, modified or removed unless a permit from the province has been obtained and that prior to cutting or removal, a copy of the permit is provided to an environmental protection official.

If an eagle tree is to be cut or removed for any reason other than it being a hazardous tree, the owner must submit to the city a habitat compensation plan.

The bylaw also prohibits damage to the roots within the drip line of the tree, operation of trucks, backhoes, excavators or other heavy equipment over the roots within the drip line of the tree, and removal of soil from land within the drip line of the tree.