Wednesday, April 17, 2013

1996-02-10/14 Tree Hugger II & III

February 10, 1996, Saturday
The Vancouver Sun
by Elizabeth Aird

Getting tough on tree-cutters

They’re sending help to a tree near you. Bob MacCallum, a retired West Side builder, and Anthony Marr, a Chinese-Canadian environmentalist, want to stop the wholesale killing of trees around town and mend race relations in the bargain. Together, they are the Urban Forest Preservation Association.

Anthony Marr, who works for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, says it’s a tragedy that trees are being destroyed in the name of Feng Shui, the Chinese belief that trees standing in front of a house can block good fortune from entering the house.

“Some of the Feng Shui ‘masters’ call it science. I have a science degree and I totally disagree," says Marr. "Just like the so-called Creation Science in Western culture, I wouldn’t even grace it with the term ‘pseudo-science’. It’s just plain superstition.”

Fully half of the Chinese-Canadians population - the more educated half - doesn’t believe in Feng Shui, says Marr. He has tart answers for those who remain convinced that cutting down trees will bring good fortune. “If anything, cutting down a tree brings bad fortune into the house in the form of neighbourhood discontent.”

Marr also thinks saving trees as a Chinese Canadian will save Chinese Canadians from the bad rap they’re getting. “Whether the trees are being cut down by Chinese themselves or by developers building on spec, it’s giving the Chinese people a bad name. If tree are protected by law, then the cutting will stop, and so will the blame.”

MacCallum started the tree campaign after his 13-year-old daughter was devastated when a massive, magnificent dogwood disappeared from their street in MacKenzie Heights.

In the three months since, MacCallum says he’s found overwhelming public support for getting tough about tree-cutting. He surveyed 100 West Side property owners by phone, and was told by 86 of them that they were willing to relinquish the right to cut down trees without good reason on their own property. They also said they’d pay $2 a year for enforcing a tough by-law. Only 6 of the people surveyed said they want to defend their property rights above all else. The remaining 8 weren’t interested in the issue.

MacCullum has also talked to 24 neighbourhood groups, and says they want a tough by-law.

There’s no question that Vancouver’s existing bylaw isn’t saving trees. It decrees only that some trees have to be replaced, and then only when new development is going in. There are no penalties for chopping down even an irreplaceable tree, so property owners are free to chop as they please.

Marr and MacCullum want a bylaw that would allow builders and home-owners to take out only those trees that sit where a house or, say a swimming pool needs to go. Fines for cutting down trees unnecessarily would be set according to the value assigned the tree by the International Society of Arboriculture.

“If the aborist says that a tree had an ISA of 70,000 buck, bingo, that’s the fine,” MacCullum says. On top of that, the city would replace the destroyed tree and tack the bill onto the owner’s property taxes. “I want big fines not as punishment, but as a deterrent.”

Ignorance would be no defence. Anyone wanting to fell a big tree would have to call professionals, who in turn would be required to get a cutting permit.

The model of a better bylaw comes from Saanich. MacCallum describes its essence. “Thou shalt not chop down a large tree, and there are definitions of a large tree.”

Marr and MacCallum have met city councilors individually to discuss the issue.

City council has told the city’s senior landscape architect, Michael von Hausen, to take a look at new ways to save trees, but politicians may be unwilling to act too tough on a touchy issue. The city could make people get a permit to cut down a tree, for instance, but von Hausen calls a permit process “burdensome”. He says penalties are being considered, but that “we would much rather create an incentive program, a heritage tree conservation program.”

In an election year, talk of “educating” people and giving them incentives to save trees sounds suspiciously like avoidance. “If people believe that cutting down a tree will let $50,000’s worth of good fortune to come into the house, they are not going to pay attention to a $500 tax incentive,” Marr said.

“City council realizes something’s got to be done,” said MacCallum. “I think when all is said and done, (they) will come to the conclusion that the only way to address the problem is to change the bylaw.”

Anthony Marr says he’ll be happy to take on cultural traditionalists who value Feng Shui over trees. He’d like to publicly debate Joseph Ip, the prominent Feng Shui master here. He’s committed to steering the tree debate out of the realm of racism. He attacks the Chinese tradition, but, he says, “as a Chinese person myself.”


February 14, 1996, Wednesday
The Kitsilano News
by Mary Frances Hill

Tree cutting angers Kits group
City to review tree bylaw

A line of old ornamental trees standing on a lot between Bayswater and Balaclava may be gone if residents don’t pressure the city to save them. The West Kitsilano Residents’ Association will hold a meeting next Tuesday...

Meanwhile, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee is pressing the city for greater protection for existing trees. Anthony Marr is pressuring the city to force property owners to force property owners to hold a permit or license before they fell a tree, and impose penalties...

The city has asked its senior landscape architect, Michael von Hausen to review the effectiveness of the bylaw in light of strong community protests over the destruction of old trees in West Side neighbourhoods.

“We’re looking at the options. We’re trying to find a balance between reasonable removal of trees and trees that don’t have to be removed,” says von Hausen. “This has personal implications, and there is no easy, straight forwards answer.”

Marr says though about 90% of residents polled recently said they would pay more taxes for enforcement costs, he still fears city councilors may drag their feet over the repercussions of potential costs and opposition.

“If you don't address the issue now, social discord will cost a lot more in the long run,” says Marr.

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