Removing trees on private property can be a complicated, time-consuming and expensive process.
That’s because communities are becoming more conscious about protecting trees.
Trees don’t just look great or provide cooling shade on hot sunny days. They’re also the planet’s lungs. They create the oxygen we all need to breathe.
Most municipalities in Metro Vancouver have bylaws that govern removing trees on private property.
Removing trees on private property in New Westminster
When a tree survey by the City of New Westminster discovered the city had lost 15 per cent of its tree canopy since 2004, city council decided it needed to do something. So in January, 2016 it passed a new tree protection bylaw.
If you are removing trees on private property that are bigger than 20 cm in diameter measured 1.3 metres (or about chest-high) above the ground, you’re going to need a permit. To calculate the diameter of a tree, measure around its trunk, then divide by 3.14.
If the tree is on city property, you’ll need a permit.
If the tree has evidence of being a home to nesting birds, you’ll need a permit.
If it’s part of a hedge that is taller than five feet, you’ll need a permit.
The application to get a permit for removing trees on private property costs $75, and then you’ll pay $75 per tree for the first 10 trees and $150 per tree after that. If you need to chop down a forest, you better have a high limit on your credit card.
As part of your application for a permit, you’ll need to submit an arborist’s report, a site plan, a survey of the trees on the site along with a plan to protect remaining trees and replace those being removed.
The arborist’s report outlines the location, species, size, critical root zone, the current condition and potential risks of a protected tree. The report includes photos of the trees, the reasons for removing trees on private property, as well as comments on how the tree’s removal could impact neighbouring trees. It will also recommend ways to protect remaining trees on the site during any excavation, construction or demolition work.
When a permit is issued, it must be posted at the site, and be visible from the street. The permit is valid for six months.
If the permit requires replacement trees be planted, you’ll have to do that work within six months.
Removing trees on private property in Burnaby
Burnaby has had a bylaw protecting trees since 1996, but it was toughened up in 2014.
Burnaby’s tree protection bylaw applies to all public and private land in the city, at all times.
If you’re developing a property in Burnaby, you’ll need a permit to remove any evergreen tree that is larger than 12 inches in diameter measured 1.4 metres above ground. Broadleaf trees require a permit if they’re bigger than 18 inches in diameter.
You’ll also need a permit for removing trees on private property if they’re near a ravine or creek, or if the trees were previously planted or retained as replacement trees, or if they were part of a previous architecture plan for the site.
If you are removing trees on private property, they will have to be replaced; one for one for 8-inch trees, two for one for 12-inch trees and three for one for 18-inch trees. You’re also going to have to pay an $800 security deposit to ensure replacement trees are planted and cared for properly. If it’s not feasible to plant replacement trees, a cash contribution can be made to the city’s Tree Replacement Fund.
A permit for removing trees on private property in Burnaby costs $70 per tree to a maximum of $500 if the property isn’t being developed. That goes up to $150 per tree to a maximum of $1,000 if the property is being developed.
If you are removing trees on private property in Burnaby without obtaining the proper permit, the fine can range from $500 to $10,000.