Letters To the Board

Letter: Budget consideration – Environmental integrity

Letter submitted by Cadboro Bay Resident to Saanich Council and the Cadboro Bay Residents Association:

February 17, 2023

Dear Mayor and Council,

I have been an engaged citizen since 2004, I have been elected to the CBRA twice over the years, and was instrumental in having Haro Woods rezoned to a P4 status.

As some may know, it was a vicious and drawn out fight to preserve the natural woodlands from becoming an industrial site to facilitate a sewage treatment plant. Haro Woods is in the Finnerty Creek Watershed, part of the Coastal Douglas Fir woodlands that have been recognized as a rare and sensitive ecosystem, and added to Saanich’s inventory of valued green spaces. I have worked with Saanich staff on designing a trail system since 2018 and happy to report the system is now in place. You are welcome and encouraged to take a walk in these woods. Trail signs, information boards and two small bridges with links to transportation have been included to protect the forest, Finnerty Creek and the wetlands. Working to protect the tree canopy falls within the new Federal and Provincial policies on protecting biodiversity, Coastal Douglas Fir woodland and our Marine environment is in line with the Global efforts to address climate change.

Today I am writing to request for you to consider a substantial increase the amount you budget to care for our parks and urban forest this year. Many Saanich residents and groups have volunteered their time, over the past 50 years, in an effort to restore and advocate on behalf of the forests and the thousands of migratory birds and and the attached ecosystems above and below the surface.

As you know, trees in our urban forests, are key to tackling climate change, and play a key role in reversing global warming. Act local think Global. Urban forests provide a refuge from life’s challenges, whether it be a diagnosis of cancer, the death of a family member, or just feeling down. Our forests healing spaces that have been recognized for that element. Trees in Urban forests absorb the toxins from rainwater and stormwater runoff. Living below the city of UVic and the 2,000 plus population, our urban forest buffers noise. The forest and it’s underground water network reduce flooding, and erosion.

In a recent Globe & Mail article it noted that for every dollar spent on the urban forest saves the city $8.00. That’s a good ROI that adds up when you take a consider how far the budget dollars can go towards providing a healthy environment for people, the animals and birds who reside and move through the green corridors in our urban forests, and tree canopies on a daily basis. Saanich has the opportunity to continue to protect habitats with mature trees by not cutting funding.

Many Saanich residents have been involved in the Saanich’s Urban Forest Strategy over the years. A community that has demonstrated it’s respect for nature dating back to 1972 when residents spoke up to protect Mystic Vale and the health of the Hobb’s Creek watershed that feeds into Cadboro/Gyro park area. Much like the way community came together to protect the last urban forest in Saanich.

In the past, Saanich dedicated staff to ensure that the Urban Forest Strategy, and other related policies, continue to be considered when development permits threaten to take another bite out of the tree canopy. We did not have a fractured park systems. Now we are faced Bare land stratas/bylaws that do not appear to work within the framework that has been built over the years. With departments being amalgamated and absorbed by other departments, all the work and funds allocated to preserving/protecting/conserving Saanich’s urban forests is threated – becoming obsolete once the canopy is gone, it’s gone. What’s left to manage? In 2010 Saanich was already at a deficit of -33%. Where are we now? Have we recovered from this deficit yet?

In Saanich’s Climate Change and Energy Action Plan the top item on the plan was to *identify current and future vulnerabilities *establish appropriate adaptive and mitigation measures.

The Sustainable Saanich reports, “A healthy ecosystem is vital to the well-being of the region and planet, a healthy human community … Native vegetation cleans the air, build soils, and regulates temperature. Wetlands clean and hold water essential for life, and healthy soils support biodiversity … quiet natural places and opportunities for viewing and experiencing natural spaces contribute to our quality of life within Saanich.”

In closing, I will echo the OCP’s intention. “… The challenge now and in the future will be to continuously restore and protect the natural environment, minimize the impacts of the built environment, and manage the effects of climate change to ensure a similar or better quality of life for future generations.” Please ensure we have enough money in the budget to fund the actions and to build on what Saanich has accomplished over the past 5 decades. In the past, Saanich has been seen as a leader when it comes to protecting biodiversity and the parks that make up the green corridors in our neighbourhoods. I ask that you continue to advocate on behalf of our forests and their ecosystems in your budget discussion.

Thank you for taking the time to consider what Saanich council & staff have achieved with funding, and outreach programs educating students to ensure the health of our neighbourhood and community parks. Please continue to allocate funds to ensure a living legacy for our children of the future by continuing to work towards protecting and restoring watersheds, and enhancing connections with nature.


Deborah M Dickson

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