Trees are vital green infrastructure

Dear editor,

As people react to the destruction of 20 endangered Garry oaks, whose “cut short” existence once provided valuable green infrastructure services like erosion protection and rainwater balance – let’s go beyond blame and take this moment to give thanks and better protection to the remaining trees that guard this Valley.

Spring naturally reminds us of nature’s incredible productivity and the gifts of healthy land. Natural capital increases over time, unlike much grey infrastructure we build, which depreciates and must be replaced with upkeep costs. Nature gives more benefits as it grows, yet we too often chop it down and pass on unintended costs – like flood damage, worse droughts and dirty drinking water.

It’s not like the Garry Oak incident came from a rogue element. One way or another, trees are slated for destruction and rezoning without systematic attention to long term consequences and immediate losses, including economic.

It’s time municipalities fully value green assets like sensitive habitat, watersheds, wetlands and forests, or they’ll continue to be mismanaged. But this depends on citizen-stewards speaking up for the massive value of “free” ecosystem services.

Trees deserve the same status as other critical municipal infrastructure.

Trees deliver health and property benefits, more bountiful soils and wildlife, and inspiration, tourism, art, food, healing and a common purpose. All ecological woes begin improving when we respect trees.

Trees are the linchpin for healthier carbon, air and water balance, help reduce pollution, add resiliency to our land, lives and local economy.

The Gary oak incident exposes the inadequacy of poorly understood and possibly unenforceable tree bylaws alone. We must evolve beyond “it’s my property, I can do what I want.” We need more than technical backstops and rearguard fines. We must take pride in connecting our properties to the bigger living picture.

Vanessa Scott

Royston