Urban Forest Questions for HRM Candidates - District 9 Candidate Linda Mosher

Halifax Diverse has been active in urban environmental stewardship for four years and we understand the importance of a healthy urban forest to thriving cities. With the upcoming municipal election (online now and at the polls on October 15), we wanted to find out if all candidates plan to be good urban forest stewards. We asked the same nine questions of all 56 municipal candidates and 26 replied (click here for the entire list).

Here are Linda Mosher's (Candidate for Councillor, Halifax West Armdale) answers to our questions.

Candidate's responses are in regular font, like this!

1.         Why are trees important to you?

Tree lined streets are as much a part of HRM’s personality as are our heritage properties. Trees are an asset to all residents, especially if we would like to remain worthy of our designation as the “City of Trees”. They provide a myriad of benefits, some of my favourites are: they provide shade, they minimize storm water runoff, minimize air pollution, a tree lined street gives the impression of being narrower and can have a calming effect for traffic. Trees improve our quality of life and reduce stress. I have about 600 feet of trees in my backyard before the Northwest Arm Drive highway and I can attest that they ensure we have nature birds and small mammals in an urban area and they greatly reduce noise.

Back in 2001, I received a call from a resident who was startled to hear chain saws cutting down an old growth forest immediately above the cliff in their backyard. The resident found out it was to accommodate two new homes. There was no consultation and no forewarning. The impact from the loss of trees adjacent to properties was devastating. On behalf of the residents I sought to understand why they were not following our tree bylaws or policies and to my surprise – there were none!

I brought this issue to Council asking them to take leadership and have a positive outcome from this clear cut. The council motion included many measures to move forward to protect our vegetation and included a management plan for urban forests, many of which have been implemented. Council approved my request for funding to develop an Urban Forest Master Plan. After many years of hard work and partnership between HRM Urban Forestry and Planning staff and Dalhousie University led by Dr. Peter Duinker, we have a one of a kind, award winning Urban Forest Master Plan. This blue print for our future will ensure sustainability of our urban forest.

2.         Can you relate a fond memory of trees or a tree in particular?

My late father was a civil engineer and had his masters in environmental engineering. He loved trees and the forest and as early as I can remember he took me and the rest of the family to wilderness areas and parks to enjoy the trees. Later in life my father gave up a senior government position and started a landscaping company, Terra Nova Landscaping (now owned by another family). As well my grandfather had a flower store, nursery, tree and sod farm. I was brought up respecting and loving trees.

3.         Why are trees important in HRM and your district in particular?

An urban forest touches residents every day. Trees on private and public properties provide environment, economic and social benefits.

Our district experiences the down stream effect of traffic. Not only does our district receive large volumes of traffic, many of our neighbourhoods experience drivers short-cutting through residential streets often at high speeds. Tree lined streets can make a street appear narrower and they are felt to calm the traffic. As our district includes many dense communities and trees reduce the effects of density. The foliage not only beautifies the area, it also provides shade, provides privacy and ecological benefits such as   Many of our older communities do not have appropriate storm water management and trees provide storm water mitigation. As well on Peninsular Halifax we have many impervious surfaces such as sidewalks and parking lots and trees assist with issues such as run-off and flooding.

HRM's Urban Forest Master Plan

The HRM UFMP is a council endorsed plan co-written by HRM staff and members of Dalhousie University's School for Resource and Environmental Studies. This award winning document provides guidance for the management of HRM's urban forest into the future using a novel neighbourhood system developed specifically for the UFMP that divides the sewer and water serviced areas of HRM into 111 neighbourhoods. It can be found digitally at: http://www.halifax.ca/property/UFMP/documents/SecondEditionHRMUFMP.pdf

4.         Which UFMP neighbourhoods does your district occupy (if applicable)?

Connaught-Quinpool

The following are priorities of the UFMP implementation strategy, as described in the UFMP, and are to be implemented within the initial 5-year timeframe:

a.         Increase funding, plant more trees on HRM land and improve urban forest maintenance.

b.         Adopt new regulations and standards to conserve urban forest canopy cover.

c.         Promote citizen urban forest stewardship and develop educational programs.

5.         As we approach the end of the 5-year initial time-frame in 2017, do you believe these priorities have been adequately addressed? Where is there room for the most significant improvement?

No, although we have an excellent Urban Forest Master Plan, some of the key five year deliverables have not been met. We have not been able to replace all dead and diseased trees that were previously removed. Some of our HRM owned parks, sportsfields and public areas still have insufficient canopy and this needs to be addressed. The pruning cycle is still inadequate and there are some safety concerns with limbs growing in power lines and branches falling during storms. We are still in a reactionary mode and require appropriate funding to pro-actively maintain our urban forest.  

We have not established appropriate regulations to ensure we establish, preserve and protect urban canopy. I will continue to push for a private property tree bylaw to prohibit clear cutting on lots being prepared for development.

Education and urban forest stewardship is minimal. We are planting street trees and some residents are very upset by this and do not want the new street trees planted. We need to focus on an educational program to ensure residents are aware of the benefits of an urban forest and support our continued efforts for a sustainable urban forest. HRM has initiated some great programs such as urban orchards and have offered to assist volunteers such as how to properly plant and care for fruit trees. We need to build on this education and partnerships.

Looking Forward

6.         What do you believe is the greatest threat to the HRM urban forest? In your district specifically?

There are several threats. One is some residents do not understand the goal of biodiversity and ensuring we have trees of various ages. Some residents insist that HRM not plant trees in front of their homes in the right of way. Invasive species is another risk, for example we have a significant amount of beech trees in District 9 which have been under attack by insects and disease. Another significant threat is clear cutting for development. When I first brought a lengthy request to council regarding trees, it included a request for a private property tree-bylaw. Development can challenge our urban forest. Many developers clear cut lots before development as it makes it easier to develop and it is less costly. However, in the long run trees provide economic benefits to a community and once trees have been cut it can take decades to replenish.

7.         What role do you suggest citizens play in supporting a healthy urban forest?

Citizens can plant trees on private property and care for them appropriately to enhance our urban forest. Residents can research their neighbourhood plan and plant species diversity and even out the age of trees to benefit their local urban forest.

8.         How will you promote and contribute to a healthy urban forest as councilor?

I will continue to bring forward issues that are a threat to our urban forest. As the  Councillor who spearheaded the Urban Forest Master Plan I will continue to push staff and council to ensure the plan is implemented as well as identifying new opportunities to maintain and enhance our urban forest.

When residents and I identify threats to the health of our trees such as the beech tree infestation, I will continue to bring expertise such as Canadian Forest Service to test solutions and provide residents suggestions for tree survival.

We currently have a backlog of 700 tree stumps and hundred's of street trees needed to be replaced. Recently council approved my request to obtain a report to have dedicated funds  identified in the 2017/2018 operating and capital budgets for tree stump removal and replanting of the former dead street trees to ensure we maintain our urban forest. The funds should be ongoing to ensure we can catch up on the back log and have appropriate service levels on a go forward basis. I also requested enhanced maintenance funding.

Public education - we need to educate land owners and property owners on the benefits of an urban forest.

9.         What changes would you like to see to your district’s urban forest in the next 10 years?

All existing tree stumps be removed and new street trees replanted. New trees continually planted as per the Urban Forest Neighbourhood Fact sheets that were identified for each of the 111 neighbourhoods. Our urban forest needs to be continually supplemented with new trees to ensure sustainability and even out the ages of the trees. The next ten years I would like to see a diverse, urban forest that is sustainable with a variety of species that are appropriately maintained.

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Thank you to Linda Mosher and all the other candidates who took the time to answer our questionnaire. We hope that our new municipal government will continue to improve urban forest stewardship in HRM to protect a vital natural resource that cannot be taken for granted. Voters are encouraged to challenge their candidates' stance on this and other environmental issues to ensure our municipal government strives for environmental sustainability. Anyone interested in learning more about the Urban Forest Master Plan can learn more from the document, found here, or the UFMP page, found here

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