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Up to a quarter of trees in Vancouver’s Stanley Park could be cut down due to ‘imminent risks’ | Radio-Canada News

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Work to cut down about a quarter of the trees in Vancouver’s Stanley Park is facing growing opposition from advocates who say the The map of the city does more harm than good.

The Vancouver Park Board began cutting down about 160,000 trees killed by an ongoing western hemlock looper infestation last summer, and says the plan will help limit “imminent” fires and public safety risks in the four square kilometer park.

Drought and moth infestations have weakened the trees’ root systems and left them dry, making them easier to ignite or tip over onto trails and power lines, according to Joe McLeod, the council’s director of urban forestry. of the park.

Most of the trees cut down are young western hemlocks less than eight inches in diameter, he said, and many other varieties of trees are planted in their place.

“Where there are dead trees, they usually fall over time, leading to a greater likelihood of a spark or something like that causing a fire and a wildfire spreading,” said McLeod on the CBC show. On the coast Monday.

“So in this case, we’re targeting these smaller trees for wildfire risk mitigation purposes, and then we’re also targeting the larger trees for public safety risks.”

WATCH | Trees in Stanley Park are hit hard by drought and moth infestation:

More than a quarter of Stanley Park trees killed by deadly virus, park board says

An outbreak of the western hemlock looper has killed up to 30 percent of Stanley Park’s 600,000 to 700,000 trees, according to the Vancouver Park Board’s urban forestry manager.

Michael Caditz, director of the nonprofit Stanley Park Preservation Society (SPPS), criticizes the plan, saying the vast expanses of cutblocks now visible in the park are an “extreme” response to a fire risk that is overrated.

A petition against the plan organized by the SPPS has collected more than 15,000 signatures since February 8.

“The trees formed a sound barrier and a visual barrier, so the whole experience of being in Stanley Park is disrupted,” Caditz said in an interview Tuesday.

He said he’s spoken to experts who say cutting down trees could actually increase fire risk.

“This is a crisis situation. This is completely an unforced error that the city of Vancouver is making right now and needs to be stopped.”

Removing dead trees allows the winds to pick up speed and encourage fire growth, he said. It can also increase temperatures in the forest by reducing the tree canopy.

Trees that remain standing can also slow the growth of fires, he said, adding that debris left behind by logging can also fuel fires.

“Another reason is that standing snags (trees) actually slow the progress of fires if they develop because fires get caught in the snags and begin burning vertically rather than quickly spreading horizontally along bare or deforested forest floor,” Caditz said.

British Columbia wildfire officials have warned of the possibility of an early and “very difficult” fire season this year due to prolonged drought conditions, and McLeod says the city is taking its responsibility seriously regarding the health of the park and its visitors.

A cut tree with a forest behind it.
Around 160,000 trees, including the one photographed on December 1, 2023, are expected to be removed. The vast majority, about 140,000, are younger trees less than 20 cm in diameter, according to the Vancouver Park Board. (CBC News)

“When you see these vast expanses of space where the trees were, it’s really shocking,” he said, “and I totally respect and feel the same way. I guess what I want to do understand is that forests are dynamic environments.

“I think in the next few years the park will look vibrant, green and regenerate.”

Caditz says the decision to remove the trees, which was an operational decision made without public consultation or a vote from the park board, lacks transparency and threatens the “intrinsic value of nature in Stanley Park.”

“Now that the weather is getting warmer and Vancouverites are going to come to Stanley Park this spring, I think they’re going to be shocked when they see what’s happening in parts of the park,” he said.

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