Monday, March 06, 2006

Vecchiato's Voice - March 6, 2006 - Township Passes The Buck

Township continues to pass the buck
Bylaw 2005 4470 is the formal name for the new Tree Protection Bylaw, which is part of the Subdivision and Development Control Bylaw 1994 No. 3335. That's why one could say it really isn't a by-law but a portion of a greater by-law. But a law is a law, right? This toughens up the unsuccessful "Tree Protection Policy dated October 2003, right?

Not quite. The original policy contained a clause regarding seasonal clearing, stating, "Site clearing, however, is not permitted between March to August as per the Provincial Wildlife Act and International Migratory Bird Convention Act. Clearing is only permitted from September to February Clearing outside of this period will require proof and documentation that no nesting activity is present and will require specific approval from the Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection/Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Often this will require the preparation of a raptor, heron, and passerine (songbird) survey to the acceptance of MOWLAP/DFO.

It was a great clause. Not exactly true, but great. The federal provincial laws don't disallow clearing, but Canadian Wildlife Service does ask that "due diligence" be shown. That means some sort of nesting bird assessment should be done. The tree Protection Policy, despite its lack of legal teeth, at least too habitat into consideration. This has been dropped from the new Bylaw 4470.

Is township passing the buck? I think so. This means that Canadian Wildlife Service or the Provincial Ministry of the Environment should be called by concerned residents when witnessing massive clearing between March and August. CWS can be reached at 604-252-6748 or the Provincial Ministry is 800-663-9453.

In fact, a new clause exists in the by-law stating:

22. In the event that any particular provision or part of a provision of this Bylaw is found to be invalid or unenforceable, it shall be severed and the validity of the remaining provisions shall not be affected.

Township may claim that it cannot enforce provincial and federal requirements, while other municipalities issue permits during this season, once it is proved that no active nests exists. Why can North Vancouver do this, but Langley can't? Is it based on political will?

Planning recently wrote to me outlining the directive" “'Whereas Council adopted a policy in 2002 on tree protection and replacement for development areas; Be it resolved that Council request staff to incorporate the Tree Protection and Replacement Policy as part of the Subdivision and Development Control Bylaw'...This was clearly identified in the staff report that staff had provided to you and others upon request. The existing policy was not modified to any great extent by staff other than to make it best fit within the context and framework of the Subdivision and Development Control Bylaw (i.e. it will be put in effect in a slightly different manner, but the principles remain the same). In other words, the direction of Council to staff was not to draft a “stand alone bylaw”, nor was it to “expand the terms of tree protection”, so it would be inappropriate for staff to make such significant modifications.

What I find disturbing is that all of the candidates for mayor and council said yes to a tree bylaw, except three successful candidates. That leaves six on council who would be in favor of one, and if I am not mistaken, six is greater than three. So what is the avoidance and why does it seem that one person is calling the shots?

Unlike North Van, Township continues to pass the buck, saying that "each of the points you mention ... are covered by other federal or provincial statutes..." So protecting species at such a critical time is not their job. So where is our environmental integrity?

Cathleen Vecchiato

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 5-1/2 years. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and a community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor-LFP

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