by Chris Pickup

A proposed new Haldimand County Forest Conservation bylaw has raised the hackles of some local landowners.

After explaining the importance of woodlands to the economy and ecosystem, County staffer Adam Chamberlin outlined provisions of the bylaw, which will supersede the old regional bylaw, in Cayuga Thursday night, noting that the county had identified it as a high priority in 2016.

The new bylaw will strive towards helping landowners maintain good forestry practices, he said, such as not taking too many trees at the circumference limit, which he termed as “high greedy”.

He also explained a minor exception process which involved a whole raft of individual permits that would have to be approved by council before the landowner could take action.

Many at the meeting resented County interference in their operations.

One man noted he has a logging operation and agrees good forestry practices are generally a good thing. However it’s a cost the landowner has to pick up and he already has to pay $1000 before a forester will set foot on the property to evaluate and tag trees slated for cutting. What does Haldimand have to do with that? he asked.

“My farm, my trees, my expert,” said another. “Regulate operators who are not following the same rules. It’s an issue for people who do clearcut. I have landowner rights. We’re paying good money for land around here. Suppose I want circumference (harvesting)? It’s my land.”

Chamberlin answered it was the impact on others, that good forestry is better.

“Our ancestors had to clear this land 150 years ago,” said one farmer. He noted they farmed the land, but over the years some of the scrub grew back because people got too old to do the work. He wants to clear the scrub from some overgrown fields to farm it again.

Now “Council has the right to tell me what to do, they can actually pick and choose how someone can use that land. Farmland is still farmland,” he added.

Chamberlin said scrub is not a natural forest, but the landowner would have to prove that by following the process to a council decision.

Perhaps the most damning comment of all came from a gentleman who noted he was uncomfortable with minor exceptions ending up with council. “Councils can, as councils do, arbitrarily decide not to allow.”

It was noted a proper definition of “woodland” needed to be addressed.

In answer to other questions, Chamberlin noted some things that do not need a permit:•

  • Clearing a drain of growth
  • Maximum of 5 trees cut for personal needs such as firewood
  • Dead trees can be removed, but if the numbers are massive they would have to be checked first
  • Hedgerows under 30 meters width can be removed unless they are attached to a woodlot, when it would need a permit
  • Pruning or trimming

Chamberlin took note of all questions and comments and will now take them into consideration in preparing the bylaw.  Since he is the only member of his department, there is no set deadline  for its completion.