London city councillors aren’t afraid to spend a little green to make the Forest City a lot greener.
A 20-year, $26-million plan to increase London’s tree cover over the next two decades was presented to the city’s planning and environment committee on Tuesday, and in the eyes of councillors, the plan doesn’t go far enough.
Councillors have asked staff to develop an even more aggressive plan which would allow the city to do more sooner.
The short term goal would be to bring the city back to 2008 levels of 25 per cent tree cover by 2035, currently the city sits at about 23 per cent. It would cost $26 million for that extra $2 million but Ivan Lister, London’s manager of Urban Forestry, says it’s worth it.
“We need to plant more; we need to enhance what we’ve got. We can’t be replacing trees on a one to one basis anymore. We know that a large tree can provide over 17 times the benefits of a small tree. When it comes to trees, you’ve heard this before, size does matter. We need to make sure that we’re planting more trees than we’re removing if we’re going to meet our targets in the long-term.”
A new report is expected to be presented in about two months.
London’s tree cover is better than Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and Mississauga but trails Guelph, Oakville and Toronto. Guelph leads the pack at 30 per cent.
Lister says there’s a lot riding on this decision.
“84 per cent of residents that responded to our online survey two years ago think that London should continue to be called the Forest City. This is huge support for our identity and for moving forward with the decisions that we make.”
That same poll done by the city found 74 per cent of residents don’t believe London has enough trees to call itself the Forest City. 61 per cent said there are fewer trees than they’d like while only 0.8 per cent believed London has too many trees. 55 per cent of respondents also supported creating a by-law to better protect trees on private property.
When the London Plan was revealed to councillors last month, it revealed there were over 4.4 million trees within the urban growth boundary in 2008, approximately 3.3 million of which were on private property. ReThink London said there were another 2 million trees outside the urban growth boundary in the rural areas of London, mostly in private woodlands.
The plan outlined by staff would direct money to plant new trees, but would also direct attention towards maintaining trees.
Lister says London can turn its tree cover around.
“We have the ability right now to replace the trees that we’ve lost since 2008 and we also have the ability to increase our urban cover by 2065 if we make a concerted effort.”
The forestry budget currently stands at $4 million, before staff was asked to report again later this summer they were asking to add $338,000 to the budget next year, $280,000 after that and $993,000 in 2017.