What is the urban forest?

    The urban forest includes all of the trees, vegetation, soil and associated processes, both natural and cultural, across Abbotsford’s landscapes. Trees are a keystone structure of the urban forest and are therefore a core focus of urban forest management. Abbotsford’s urban forest is made up of all the trees found within the City’s boundaries including trees in parks, on streets, in existing forests and other ecosystems, in agricultural lands, and on private properties.

    Why does Abbotsford need an urban forest management strategy?

    Trees are an important asset to our community. Trees provide shade and cooling, intercept stormwater, stabilize soil, prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitats, improve physical and mental health, reduce pollution and beautify the city.  Abbotsford has always had an abundance of forests and trees but the rapid growth of our population, development activity and climate change are creating a number of challenges. 

    Challenges for our urban forest include the loss of trees and forests due to development,  competition with the installation of utilities, growth of invasive species, tree decline due to drought and disease and limited operational resources for urban forest management. 

    The development of an Urban Forestry Strategy (UFS) is necessary to provide baseline information to preserve the urban forest, establish acceptable tree canopy coverage and forest health targets, and achieve tangible goals while managing the challenges. The UFS will be a comprehensive document which will provide the direction and long-term vision for managing the City’s urban forest for the next 15 years and beyond.

    What is involved in developing an urban forest management strategy?

    The strategy process and plan development will involve:

    • Establishing a clear vision, methodology, and framework for managing Abbotsford’s urban forest;
    • Reviewing the current condition of Abbotsford’s urban forest including but not limited to current practices, procedure, priorities, resources, trends, successes, operational gaps, and capital budgets;
    • Presenting information to Council and the residents of Abbotsford regarding the value of the urban forest including economic, environmental, and social benefits as an integral part of the City’s Green Infrastructure and an essential service to enhance the quality of life;
    • Guiding the City’s other related policies, guidelines, and regulations for incorporating trees as a part of city infrastructure;
    • Offering recommendations for tree risk management and hazard abatement including wildfire;
    • Providing recommendations to enhance existing legislation aimed at sustaining and enhancing the urban forest  (i.e. tree bylaw, noxious weed act, improved City legislation about invasive plants)
    • Engaging with the public and community partners and stakeholders to contribute ideas and opinions for the success of the urban forest.

    What does the City currently do to plant, manage and protect trees?

    The City plants between one and two thousand trees in streets and parks each year. These trees are either planted by City crews or with volunteer groups and school classrooms.  In natural areas, the City focuses on forest restoration and invasive species removals to keep forests healthy, and trail maintenance and risk management to keep parks safe and accessible to the public. On streets and in parks, City crews maintain trees to ensure they are healthy and safe. 

    On private land, the City’s Tree Management Bylaw Bylaw No. 1831-2009 regulates tree cutting and replacement on private land.  Development permits set out the conditions for tree removal and replacement during development.

    How can I get involved?

    There will be public workshops held in October 2019 for the community to contribute to the development of Abbotsford’s Urban Forest Strategy and to highlight current successes and challenges for the urban forest. A public open house will be held in January 2020 to present and gain feedback on the draft vision, goals and targets for the Urban Forest Strategy. The final Strategy is expected to be presented to Council in March 2020.