Vancouver gradually losing tree cover to real-estate development

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      A little over 20 years ago, a fifth of Vancouver was covered by trees.

      But since 1995, the city has been gradually losing its tree cover as properties are cleared for new developments.

      A report to the Vancouver board of parks and recreation notes that the urban forest canopy is “incrementally decreasing”.

      “While many trees run their natural course of life and die, the recent accelerated decrease in urban forest canopy cover is primarily due to the loss of trees to urban development,” according to the report submitted by park board general manager Malcolm Bromley.

      The report prepared by Nick Page and Dave Hutch, both with the planning and research department, stated that the current urban forest canopy covers 18 percent of the city.

      “A recent improved estimate indicates that Vancouver has lost canopy cover over the last 20 years (18% in 2014 from 20% in 1995) but fortunately the rate of loss has not been as rapid as first reported,” according to the report.

      The urban forest covers all trees in the city, including those on private property.

      Public lands, including streets, are home to 63 percent of trees.

      According to the report, about 147,000 street trees and 68,000 large canopy park trees are maintained by Vancouver park board workers.

      The park board does not have authority over trees on private land.

      City hall's Planning, Urban Design, and Sustainability department is "responsible for tree protection, development planning, and permitting on private land," according to the report.

      “Vancouver’s urban forest is not equally distributed across the city,” the report also noted. “Neighbourhoods vary from 6% to 28% canopy cover.”

      The residential neighbourhoods with least urban forest are Strathcona, six percent; Downtown, eight percent; Sunset, nine percent; and Renfrew Collingwood, 10 percent.

      The neighbourhoods of Strathcona, Downtown, Sunset, and Renfrew Collingwood have the least urban forest.

      The report provides an update to the city’s Urban Forest Strategy, which was first presented to park board in 2014.

      The update lays out a plan for urban forest management, which include increasing the urban forest canopy to 22 percent by 2050.

      The report recalled that Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan in 2010 set a target of planting 150,000 trees by 2020.

      As of April 2018, a total of 105,933 trees have been planted.