Urban Forest Questions for HRM Candidates – District 8 Candidate Lindell Smith

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 Lindell Smith’s (Candidate for Councillor, Halifax Peninsula North) answers to our questions.Candidate’s responses are in regular font, like this!1.         Why are trees important to you?In an urban landscape, trees provide a connection to nature that is often lost to brick, stone and asphalt. Trees help us enjoy our surroundings and instill a feeling of pride in a community.  They make our city cooler and more breathable.2.         Can you relate a fond memory of trees or a tree in particular?I grew up in Uniacke Square where there are not many trees. So the ones we have, we cherish.  My fondest memories are of every tree that played a part in neighbourhood games of hide-and-seek and snowball fights. 3.         Why are trees important in HRM and your district in particular?Trees provide a balance that is important for creating livable neighbourhoods, communities and economies. They are an integral part of functional outdoor spaces that link together school, work and home, providing space for community, culture and play. Because of this, trees are an investment into the local economy. 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)?Halifax Peninsula, including Harbour/Windsor, Halifax Central, Connaught/Quinpool, the North End, and the West End.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?Without a focused assessment, including input from environmental stakeholders and organizations we don’t have a full picture on what has been accomplished and what is still to be done. This should happen as soon as possible and then guide the work on the next 5-year cycle for the UFMP. One priority area for action that I see, is that there needs to be an increase in the types of trees we have—ie, the species of trees—in our neighbourhoods. This is so our tree populations, and green spaces, are better resistant to threats. Looking Forward6.         What do you believe is the greatest threat to the HRM urban forest? In your district specifically?Lack of species-diversity and bio-diversity, along with an overabundance of invasive species and aging trees are all of serious concern. We can’t just rely on having green spaces that are uniform or identical. Simply having cookie-cutter manicured grass public spaces misses the point—our green spaces should be plentiful and diverse. There are good economic and social policy reasons for prioritizing the urban forest, but sometimes they aren’t made very clear. Increasing community awareness around the benefits of urban green spaces is a must going forward.  Further, the UFMP strategy must be a user-friendly tool that communities and developers easily use as a touch stone for new initiatives and for the basis of consultations and priority-setting. 7.         What role do you suggest citizens play in supporting a healthy urban forest?I think citizens need to hold elected officials accountable on issues that relate to supporting a healthy urban forest. When Councillors are engaged in conversations and tasked with the responsibility of addressing concerns around urban forest they will be encouraged to learn more about the topic and find creative ways to protect urban forest.8.         How will you promote and contribute to a healthy urban forest as councilor?I will make a healthy urban forest a priority and work hard to make the link between increased green spaces and better outcomes for young people, as well as the importance of green spaces for community development. 9.         What changes would you like to see to your district’s urban forest in the next 10 years?Achievement of the canopy and bio-diversity goals, including tree species-diversity, that are outlined in the UFMP. The creation of equitable conditions for the pockets of my district that have to date not received the same attention with respect to establishing and maintaining links to the urban forest.–Thank you to Lindell Smith 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.