Urban Forest Questions for HRM Candidates - District 1 Candidate Colin Castle

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 Colin Castle's (Candidate for Councillor, Waverley - Fall River - Musquodoboit Valley) answers to our questions.

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

1.         Why are trees important to you?

Trees are important to me for a variety of reasons. I would have to say mostly because as a byproduct of photosynthesis they produce oxygen which we need to stay alive! Which is always a good thing. Beyond that, trees are a vital natural renewable resource providing the raw materials we need to build the structures and products in the world around us. Finally, they are a beautiful addition to any landscape be it in a city, a park or naturally in a forest. Whether we acknowledge it or not, trees play a very important role in our every day lives.

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

Growing up in Middle Musquodoboit, I was surrounded mostly by farmers' fields which are pretty devoid of trees. Our family is fortunate enough to own a modest sized wood lot. As a kid, I have a fond memory of going to the wood lot with the family and building a little lean-to type cabin if you could even call it a cabin. As a child though, it was amazing to see it come together using simply two trees that grew close together and bridging the gap with blown down trees and boughs off some evergreens. It was a fun family experience but also valuable lesson in learning how to build a simple structure, using materials around you and provided a fun and natural place to play!

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

Trees are important to HRM because they are a necessary addition to any community, especially in a city setting. They serve as a reminder of nature in a concrete jungle. More than that however, they define spaces and provide natural boundaries. Trees are a component which need to be included in every plan we make because they are an integral part to the beautification of a community. When you get into District 1, it is mostly a rural setting and many of the trees belong to private woodlot owners. The importance of trees out there shifts from beautification to being a resource and sustainability measure. Trees in District 1 (and I'm sure in many other rural parts) become a commodity rather than beauty.  This is important as well because the sustainability of the rural way of life depends on harvesting and drawing from the land as well as giving back to the land.

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)?

N/A

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?

I honestly am not sure. I would have to say they haven't been adequately addressed simply for the fact that I haven't heard or seen much in the agendas at council mentioning the UFMP. I would say room for the most improvement should come by the way of educational programs. I don't know how many average citizens are aware of this document and the significance of its contents. As more people become informed then we can look to shaping policy and regulations.

Looking Forward

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

I believe the greatest threat to the HRM urban forest is lack of attention paid to this program. I think more people need to be made aware of the UFMP and understand what the ramifications are for inattentiveness. In District 1, the plan doesn't exactly extend to us, but stewardship is still important to sustainability of our forests and woodlots.

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

I think to start, citizens can familiarize themselves with the UFMP. From there, the most important part is being actively engaged with the plan and contributing where they can within their communities.

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

If elected, I hope to bring a more eco-focused approach to council. As a member of the millennial generation (although I do not identify as a millennial) I have grown up in an environment which is seeing the immediate effects of climate change. I hope to contribute to slowing this trend by applying a youthful perspective to any debates or decisions. Part of this perspective will be making others mindful to the importance of not just trees but all plant life in our communities and how we can balance nature and progress in our daily lives throughout HRM.

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

Unfortunately, District 1 is not included in this plan. Nonetheless, over the next 10 years, I would like to see HRM meet or exceed targets laid out in the UFMP. I would like to see more action taken by citizens in terms of education and awareness as well.

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Thank you to Colin Castle 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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