Urban Forest Questions for HRM Candidates – District 5 Candidate Sam Austin

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 Sam Austin’s (Candidate for Councillor, Dartmouth Centre) answers to our questions.Candidate’s responses are in regular font, like this!1.         Why are trees important to you?I just loving having them around. They beautify my neighbourhood, they provide shade when I sit outside in the summer and they provide space for birds.2.         Can you relate a fond memory of trees or a tree in particular?I grew up in the country and played in the woods a lot. Building forts and cities in the forest and climbing trees was part of childhood. In my Dartmouth neighbourhood, I look forward to seeing the big Magnolia at the corner of Maple and Dahlia bloom each year.3.         Why are trees important in HRM and your district in particular?Trees provide us with so much. They provide shade in the summer, absorb excess storm water and pollutants, increase property values, can calm traffic and provide a key link to nature in an increasingly nature-starved world. We need nature and green around us and trees fill a big part of that role in our urban areas.HRM’s Urban Forest Master PlanThe 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.pdf4.         Which UFMP neighbourhoods does your district occupy (if applicable)?Many in DartmouthThe 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?One issue that I see in my district is that there are several big stumps from trees taking up space along our residential streets. I have been told by neighbours that some of them are from Hurricane Juan. Juan was 13 years ago now. Past time to remove the stumps and replant.Looking Forward6.         What do you believe is the greatest threat to the HRM urban forest? In your district specifically?In many Dartmouth neighbourhoods there is almost a mono-culture of Norway Maples that are all about the same age. If they were lost all at once through disease, old age, or another major storm (they’re shallow rooting and brittle), we could lose a large portion of our tree cover.7.         What role do you suggest citizens play in supporting a healthy urban forest?Citizens are great advocates and provide eyes on the street for the health of our trees. There are a lot of non-profit environmental groups in our city who have contributed a great deal to developing our urban forest.8.         How will you promote and contribute to a healthy urban forest as councilor?I will continue to support the Urban Forest Master Plan and will be a voice to maintain funding for tree planting in our urban areas.9.         What changes would you like to see to your district’s urban forest in the next 10 years?Additional planting of a wider variety of native species, more emphasis on stump removal and the introduction of trees to some fairly treeless areas like Downtown Dartmouth and Wyse Road. I would also like to see more fruit trees planted in Dartmouth’s parks.–Thank you to Sam Austin 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. Please join Halifax Diverse on facebook for environmental programming, news, and more.