What is a tree protection bylaw?

    A tree protection bylaw regulates the cutting, removal or damaging of trees in a municipality or region.

    Why are we updating the District's Tree Protection Bylaw?

    The North Saanich tree canopy plays an important role in the health and well-being of the North Saanich natural environment and community. The North Saanich Tree Protection Bylaw was adopted in 2002. Since then, North Saanich’s community forest and the challenges it faces have evolved. The District is reviewing its Tree Protection Bylaw to align with current best practices and conditions, while ensuring it responds to community values. 

    Is the District trying to take away the rights of property owners?

    This bylaw aims to find a balanced approach to protect the District's tree canopy for current and future residents, while providing some flexibility for residents to manage the trees on their land.

    Does the draft bylaw propose to change the annual tree removal allowance?

    Yes. Under the draft bylaw, owners could apply to remove 12 trees greater than 20 cm in diameter per hectare (5 trees per acre) each year except for protected trees. However, the lot must maintain a minimum of 50 trees per hectare. If the lot does not maintain the minimum, owners would need to justify tree removals with an acceptable reason (see below).

    The allowance would no longer apply to properties undergoing development.

    What are the new requirements for protected trees in the draft bylaw?

    Property owners must have an acceptable reason for removal of protected trees. Protected trees cannot be removed under the annual allowance.

    What is considered a protected tree under the draft bylaw?

    Significant trees: All trees larger than 60 cm in diameter except cottonwood, red alder and willow
    Trees in sensitive areas: All trees larger than 10 cm in diameter within the steep slope and environmental development permit areas
    Protected species: Tree species greater than 10 cm in diameter, including: Arbutus, Garry oak, Pacific dogwood, Pacific yew, and shore pine
    Replacement trees:
     Trees planted as a requirement of a tree permit

    What are acceptable reasons for removing protected trees under the draft bylaw?

    • when it is required for the construction of a principal building
    • when the tree is dead or dying
    • when the tree is within two metres of a building foundation
    • when it is an invasive species

    Removals are also permitted for the following if it not possible to mitigate or avoid the impact, for building structures other than a principal building, trees with high or extreme risk to persons or property, trees causing structure or infrastructure damage, or trees that pose wildfire hazard. 

    What are the requirements for replacement trees under the new bylaw?

    Two replacement trees for every tree removed, capped at a maximum of 50 trees per hectare, except four replacement trees for every significant tree removed. Properties undergoing subdivision must plant or retain a minimum of 50 trees per hectare.

    What are the proposed fees under the draft bylaw?

    Permit applications (except for dead, dying or hazardous trees): $150 + $25/tree removed

    Permit applications for developments: $250 + $25/tree removed

    Will this new bylaw help the District retain or even increase the tree canopy in the future?

    The new draft bylaw would reduce the rate of loss by requiring that trees be retained unless a property meets the tree minimum or there is a valid reason for removal. Replacement requirements to the tree minimum would help replace tree canopy loss.

    Would I still be allowed to prune and/or top trees without a permit?

    Pruning of trees (such as crown lifting or window pruning) is allowed without a permit so long as it is done in accordance with arboricultural best practices. The pruning should not cause damage to the trees.

    Topping trees is not an acceptable arboricultural practice and is prohibited in bylaws throughout the region, including in North Saanich's current Tree Protection Bylaw. A tree that has been topped in the past, can be re-topped with a tree permit if is creating a high or extreme risk.

    Does the draft bylaw apply to pruning hedges?

    No, the draft bylaw does not regulate the pruning of hedges and does not prohibit the re-topping a tree if it forms part of a hedge.

    Are the replacement trees in the draft bylaw required to be native species?

    Replacement trees planted in development permit areas related to the protection of the natural environment would need to be native species. Other replacement trees provide more flexibility for property owners.

    Does the draft bylaw set a minimum size for replacement trees?

    Yes, the draft bylaw specifies the size required for replacement trees.