Hamilton Urban Forest Strategy Released

This article, from January 16, has details on the Hamilton Urban Forest Strategy and ways you can improve canopy coverage in your neighbourhood.

Hello Ward 8 Neighbours,

In the past few weeks, a draft of the Hamilton Urban Forest Strategy was released on the City of Hamilton’s website. Compared to the rest of the City’s wards, Ward 8 falls into last place in terms of canopy coverage. This post will cover what exactly the Hamilton Urban Forest Strategy is, why it’s important, and what you can do to change that.

For more details, please continue reading below…

What is the Hamilton Urban Forest Strategy?

Hamilton’s urban forest can be defined as all trees, whether single trees,
groups of trees or woodlands that are found on public and private land
within the urban boundary.

The urban forest is also a natural environment, providing a home to many species that live within it. Recognizing how important forests are for protecting nature and building livable cities, the Urban Hamilton Official Plan sets a target to reach 30% canopy cover.

Both the Urban and Rural Hamilton Official Plans and the 2016-2025 City Strategic Plan include goals for environmental sustainability and for achieving a balance of healthy natural and urban spaces. The urban forest has an important role in achieving this balance.

Courtesy of the City of Hamilton

Why is the Urban Forest Strategy Important?

This is the first Urban Forest Strategy (UFS) undertaken by the City of Hamilton. The UFS is a high-level plan and the roadmap for a sustainable urban
forest. It sets the long-term direction for the urban forest for the
next 20 years and is supported by a technical report that provides
background for the UFS priorities. The UFS includes actions that will
help the City achieve its urban forest vision.

Investing in an urban forest supports other important City goals like
sustainable urban development, stormwater management, recreation
and protection of natural assets.

Scientific research shows that exposure to nature is good for the well-being of residents at all ages. Hamilton’s urban forest contributes to the City’s vision of a healthy community. It also provides many other environmental and economic benefits to government and the community.

10 Ways Trees Help Us (From the City of Hamilton’s Urban Forest Strategy Draft)

Trees also contribute and promote important Green Infrastructure services in a number of ways, such as:

• Trees reduce stormwater runoff by capturing and storing rainfall in their canopy and releasing water into the atmosphere;
• Trees draw moisture from the soil ground surface, thereby increasing soil water storage potential;
• Tree roots and leaf litter create soil conditions that promote the infiltration of rainwater into the soil as well as reduce erosion and sedimentation;
• Trees help slow down and temporarily store runoff and reduce pollutants by taking up nutrients and other pollutants from soils and water through their roots; and,
• The urban forest canopy lowers air temperatures and reduces the urban heat island effect through shading and evapotranspiration, which improves energy efficiency in buildings.

In 2019, Hamilton joined other cities across Canada in declaring a climate emergency. We know that climate change affects many aspects of life in the city, from public health to infrastructure to transportation and energy systems to biodiversity. A healthy urban forest provides an important tool for mitigating climate change effects and meeting the City’s goal to reduce carbon emissions
by 30% by the year 2050.

As of 2020, Hamilton’s total canopy coverage in its urban area is currently estimated at approximately 21.2%. The loss of natural canopy cover affects watershed health and native biodiversity. Compared to other Ontario municipalities, Hamilton’s canopy cover is relatively low, at approximately two thirds of the City’s 30% target.

Canopy coverage of comparative communities (City of Hamilton)

What You Can do to Increase Tree Presence in Ward 8

According to the Urban Forest Draft, Ward 8 has the lowest percent of canopy coverage in the City at 7.6%. But in saying that, there is a way for Ward 8 residents to take advantage of a City of Hamilton program to increase coverage across the ward.

Courtesy of the City of Hamilton

The City of Hamilton has a free tree program for homeowners, where trees are planted in the City-owned portion of the road-allowance of your property.

Planting a tree helps to reduce air pollution, offers shade for your family and benefits wildlife, in addition to boosting your health. Trees can also be seen as a future investment for your health, in your neighbourhood, and for your property’s value.

Courtesy of the City of Hamilton

The City offers around 40 choices of native and non-native trees which provide diversity to neighbourhood streets and ensures that the trees planted are suitable for the location.

Planting a variety of trees reduces the loss of tree canopy due to disease and insect damage and increases the sustainability of Hamilton’s Urban Forest. A City Forestry Investigator will do a site inspection to assist in selecting a tree species that is site appropriate.

The City’s Forestry Section is currently in a temporary suspension of Maple Tree planting to build diversity in the City’s tree canopy, thereby building a robust canopy to better withstand pathogens. Trees are planted by the City from spring through fall.

The City also provides a number of tips for would-be tree owners, and advice on how their tree can flourish. To get started on the process, you can submit a request and review the program guidelines here.

Questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our office here.

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