Committee hears update on urban forest plan, tree planting priorities

A graphic with Ottawa City Hall is in the background. A vertical grey stripe and a horizontal lime green stripe are in the foreground with "Environment and Climate Change Committee update" in the centre.

The City’s Environment and Climate Change Committee today received an update on the Urban Forest Management Plan's accomplishments to date and the work plan for the next four years. This includes a new strategy to achieve 40 per cent urban canopy cover in Ottawa by proactively planting trees in urban neighbourhoods where they are most needed. 

Work in the first five years of the plan focused on tree protection, data collection and integration. The City has made significant progress integrating trees in planning and decision making, recognizing the importance of the urban forest to public health and climate change mitigation. To date, the City has: 

  • Developed a new Tree Protection By-law to protect more trees in urban areas, particularly in infill development
  • Completed analysis of canopy cover for the National Capital Region, establishing a baseline urban canopy of 31 per cent to track progress toward the target of 40 per cent set in the new Official Plan 
  • Completed the inventory of street trees and made progress on the inventory of trees in parks, which is now 60 per cent complete 
  • Integrated tree considerations in work across the City, including important policy projects like the new Official Plan, the High Performance Development Standard and the new Zoning By-Law  

Over the next four years, the City will focus on tree planting and maintenance, as well as community outreach and engagement. Planned work includes: 

  • Developing a new tree planting strategy to work towards achieving the Official Plan target of 40-per-cent urban canopy cover in Ottawa. The City will prioritize planting based on canopy cover data, socio-economic factors and public health data, such as urban heat mapping. 
  • Developing a structural pruning pilot to direct growth that will improve and strengthen trees 
  • Mapping wildland fire hazards to meet provincial planning requirements and guide management of the City’s forested lands 
  • Creating an outreach and engagement strategy to foster opportunities for the community to understand and care for its green assets 
  • Continuing to integrate tree considerations into the City’s work, including in new development review processes in response to the Province’s Bill 109 and Bill 23 legislation, ongoing work on the new Zoning By-Law, and the upcoming Climate Change and Resiliency Strategy 
  • ​​​​​​​Monitoring the ongoing implementation and enforcement of the Tree Protection By-law 

The plan has encountered challenges due to extreme weather, including tornadoes, a derecho and the recent ice storm. These events had widespread impacts on the urban forest, and recovery efforts have required significant staff support. The COVID-19 pandemic and several years of spring flooding have added to these challenges. To address some of the challenges and lessons learned, the City would create two new full-time equivalent positions to advance the plan, funded by internal transfer. The City will consider further resource requirements through annual budget processes. 

The Committee also approved delegated authority for staff to enter into alternate locate agreements for low-risk excavations. These are contracts between the City and an excavator used for low-risk, shallow excavations. As the owner of underground infrastructure, the City would set the allowable work that could be permitted without the need for a traditional field locate – a detailed mapping of underground utilities. Such agreements would allow Ontario One Call to clear a requested excavation without the need to send a request to the City for a traditional field locate. 

Alternate locate agreements could be used in cases where there is minimal risk of damaging City-owned underground water, sewer, streetlight and traffic signal infrastructure. These agreements could reduce wait time for excavators, give staff more time for complex requests, help the City meet new statutory timelines, and avoid project delays that increase construction costs.  

Items considered at this meeting will rise to Council on Wednesday, June 28. 

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