Kent Federation of Agriculture, Deputation to Chatham-Kent Council, April 26, 2021
Mayor Caniff and members of council, the controversial issue of a tree cutting by law is once again rearing its ugly head.
This bylaw is being heavily promoted by the same small group as before with the effective goal of taking away private property rights from farm woodlot owners without compensation. The 350 or so residents who signed the recent petition put forward by the bylaw promoters does not point to widespread support in a CK population of over 100,000. It must be noted that all woodlots are not of equal value or benefit, some are healthy, diverse and productive but many are not, having been ravaged by disease or poor management, any proposed incentive programmes must be targeted toward high quality woodlots.
Chatham-Kent has some of the best and most diverse agricultural land in the world.
If council decides to put a tree cutting bylaw in place, they will greatly inhibit a farmers ability to manage their land to the highest level in order to remain current and profitable. Agriculture is an ever changing industry, new and modern technologies have increased farmers tools and options for soil conservation.
Land owners have taken advantage of LTVCA programs and green cover is on the rise, but it is taking a different shape. Wind breaks and special projects including wetlands or ponds are taking favour rather than a woodlot that has been ravaged by disease and invasive species.
If council passes the temporary bylaw, that becomes the first step onto the slippery slope of ever increasing regulation of private property. As an example in bordering Lambton County, farmers wishing to clear woodlot must apply to the Woodlands Hearings Board Committee of Council. The application fee is $1000. and if the application is granted the farmer must pay $3000 per acre with the stated purpose of planting trees elsewhere in the county. Ontario looses 175 acres of farm land every day to development, that’s 63,875 acres every year, the production lost forever from that land needs to be replaced, be it Amazon rainforest or poor quality CK bush land. Replacing a woodlot with high value crops provides the environmental benefits of an annual cropping rotation and direct economic benefits within Chatham-Kent.
If trees are so important why does St Clair Region Conservation Authority rent out farmland that has been donated to SCRCA, rented to the highest bidder to grow cash crops rather than planting trees with the $3000 per acre taken from farmers?
If CK council moves to adopt a tree cutting bylaw several financial issues are created such as cost of enforcement personnel and legal costs of any prosecutions. Council must carefully consider all the implications of taking property rights from CK landowners.