By Paul McIntosh, Aurora ON. It doesn’t take long here in Aurora as you drive around in and just outside of town before you see them.

Rising up and providing a glorious spectacle of green throughout the warmer months and a dazzling spray of colours for us in the fall.

We are blessed here to be surrounded by forested areas. Small and large alike they provide a multitude of benefits. Cleaner air for one, they filter out the harmful carbon dioxide and return to us much needed oxygen.

Cleaning the waters and holding that valuable six inches of top soil that we use to feed ourselves.

Yet, here in Aurora we seem to be neglecting portions of this value.

“For the sake of what? Nicer greens? Another subdivision? More urban sprawl?”

Presently, and for the last 5 years, Town Council have been sifting through documents to come up with a way that the trees, forests, woodlands and woodlots of the area can be maintained, sustained and grown.

One sticking point with a number of residents is the exemption of golf courses from any kind of supervision or accountability when it comes to woodlot sized areas of the hundreds of acres they manage.

Just for clarification, according to the present tree bylaw [pdf], a woodlot is any property from .2 to 1.0 hectare of land. Here’s an excerpt from that bylaw:

u) “woodlot” means land at least 0.2 hectare in area and no greater than 1 hectare in area, with at least:

(i) 200 trees, of any size, per 0.2 hectare;

(ii) 150 trees, measuring over five (5) centimetres DBH, per 0.2 hectare;

(iii) 100 trees, measuring over twelve (12) centimetres DBH, per 0.2 hectare; or

(iv) 50 trees, measuring over twenty (20) centimetres DBH, per 0.2 hectare;

but does not include a cultivated fruit or nut orchard, or a plantation established and maintained for the purpose of producing Christmas trees or nursery stock.

Let’s put this into something we all can imagine, I know for me it made things clearer. A woodlot is about the size of a football field, about 2.75 acres or 107,639 square feet. Now along with the number of trees that can occupy this sized area, that’s a small forest.

A tiny microcosm filtering out the air we breathe, the water we drink, providing a home for any number of animals, birds, insects and plants.

I ask you, should this not have the same amount of governance applied as with the woodlands?

And more to the point, should not the golf courses be held to the same regulations as anyone else? Why is it they are exempt?

In 2011/2012 one of the golf courses removed 303 trees from their property. Yes, they did have a permit from the region for removal of the trees on the woodland areas, which by the way are a part of the Oak Ridges Moraine on this particular golf course. Though the permit was for the removal of 108 trees, there were an extra 195 mature trees for a total of 303, removed from the smaller woodlot type areas. Never mind the countless number of saplings that were likely killed as a result, I don’t know what that number is.

And these 195 were removed without any permit.

As we move through this 21st century and the awareness of the role our environment plays in the grand scheme of things I feel it is unfathomable that this type of damage to the environment is allowed to happen. For the sake of what? Nicer greens? Another subdivision? More urban sprawl?

Isn’t it time to increase the awareness of the role these woodlands and woodlots, and forests in general play in our lives?

It would be nice to see Aurora Town Council take a leadership role here and do what’s best for all of us. Maybe pass the authority to regulate the woodlots over to the region as all the other towns in the region seem to have done.

I think so.

Paul McIntosh
Aurora, ON

Tree by-Law

Town of Aurora