CK farmers score big victory, able to cut down trees again on own land

A temporary bylaw to protect woodlots has been chopped down by Chatham-Kent Council.

At Monday night's Council meeting, Council voted 9-8 to eliminate the temporary clear-cutting bylaw that prevented the cutting of trees. That bylaw was implemented on April 26, 2021 with no end date and Ward 3 Councillor Steve Pinsonneault's motion to eliminate the bylaw and reinstate the Natural Heritage Strategy was approved Monday night.

Ward 5 Councillor Aaron Hall pulled his notice after the vote asking for the tree cutting bylaw to remain in place until the Natural Heritage Committee of the Whole makes recommendations to Council and councillors repeal it and approve new regulations to conserve woodlots.

Council heard from 17 delegations with about half asking for the temporary clear-cutting bylaw to be eliminated.

Orford farmer Blake Ashton asked Council to eliminate the bylaw and to trust farmers because they have historically been good stewards of the land.

"Farmers have and will continue to be primary stewards of our agricultural lands, including the majority of forested lands in this community. We must continue to trust that they will make the right management decisions that will support the sustainability of the environment and in turn their business operations," said Ashton.

Some fought to keep the tree cutting moratorium in place to protect woodlots, including Environmental Scientist Sally Joyce.

"In nature everything is connected to everything else. If we continue to give priority to cash crops over woodlots, the tipping point will soon come when soils will completely die and crops fail because our local biodiversity and ecosystems have imploded because of our destructive actions," Joyce said.

Others, such as local businessman Bill Parks, wanted the tree cutting bylaw eliminated to create more farmland, if needed, to grow food and meet provincial goals of increasing food production by 30 per cent by 2032.

"To achieve the minister's goals, Ontario needs more farmland available for production, which in many cases will include clearing and draining the farmland," said Parks.

Ward 2 Councillor Ryan Doyle agreed with one deputation that the tree cutting bylaw was only in place for farmers, saying developers can come in and cut trees.

Long time Chatham-Kent farmer Rob Kerr said trees need more protection and suggested a woodlot stewardship committee.

The tree cover in Chatham-Kent dropped from 3.87 per cent in 2010 to 3.54 per cent in 2020, according to the municipality.

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