Forest Protection FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

Thanks for all of the questions and comments we received through both the Get Involved Burlington platform, Service Burlington and during the Oct 28 Virtual Public Information Centre. Please see the FAQ below for responses to some common questions. If you don't see the answer to your question, please contact Service Burlington at 905-335-7777 or

Q - Has the tree by-law resulted in an increase in Burlington's tree canopy since its inception and what is the predicted annual change?

A - An analysis of the urban tree canopy has not been completed since the private tree bylaw has been enacted (January 2020). The Forestry Department will be embarking on an update to the Urban Forest Master Plan (20-year plan) in January 2022. At that time, canopy analysis will be completed to determine relative canopy coverage City-wide as well as other indicators of Urban Forest Health. Metrics identified within the Urban Forest Master Plan will assist in developing programs and/or by-laws to achieve the City's goal by 2041 of 35%.

Q - Should there be an accommodation for property owners whom already exceed the City's canopy goal, or have a different approach to replanting conditions due to space limitations?

A - Staff are investigating the feasibility of evaluating existing canopy cover and retained canopy cover (post-tree removal) with the use of GIS technologies. Analysis of the net impact to the subject property and neighbouring properties is a consideration. Similarly, staff are investigating the feasibility of stocking value of a given property (how many trees a property can reasonably grow) which will be used in the determination of compensation requirements.

Q - Can trees be planted on another property? Especially when there is a privacy loss when trees are removed?

A - Currently replacement trees are planted on the subject property where they are removed. Staff are reviewing the ability to plant on alternative properties. Tree planting initiatives that are funded by cash-in-lieu dollars collected as part of the private tree by-law, provide a process whereby private land owners will be able to come forth to obtain a tree (or trees) for their property. This program is aimed to launch in spring 2022.

Q – Why do you need a permit or have to pay for trees that are diseased or a hazard and need to be removed?

A - The current Private Tree By-law already has exemption clauses for dead, terminally diseased and high risk or imminently hazardous trees. These trees are not subject to a permit fee nor compensation requirements. The metrics collected through the issuance of a permit provides the City with a means to understand how the City's canopy is changing and provides an idea of potential pests and diseases or other tree related issues which will inform planning and health related programs. Staff do note that the City's property standards by-law also has provisions in place for hazard trees to ensure safety. An order under this by-law can be issued to remove the hazard from your property. There is currently no City funding to subsidize the cost of maintenance for privately owned trees on private properties.

Q - Is there certain criteria for trees that are growing in the wrong place?

A - Certain criteria would need to be met to be considered 'the wrong tree'. The City is reviewing certain aspects within the By-law as it pertains to maintenance.

Q - Are regulations applied to property developers who are prone to take down all sorts of trees in their projects?

A - Single family residential construction and other smaller scale construction projects are regulated by the City's private tree bylaw. Multi-unit residential developments and larger scale construction are regulated by site plan approval and other applicable law under the Planning Act. Site plan guidelines must be followed for these applications which include provisions for compensation for tree loss. Where trees are proposed to be removed to facilitate a new build, a plan for replacement would be identified with the application which can be in the form of replacement trees or cash-in-lieu payment.

Q- Is there an opportunity for local businesses to support forestry initiatives?
A - Forestry staff are actively seeking out areas within commercial zones to plant trees within the municipal right of way. In future, it is the intent to collaborate with local businesses to plant trees and naturalize areas of their campus to increase the urban tree canopy.

Q - What enforcement measures are done to make sure developers adhere to the by-law?

A - Forest Protection Staff investigate matters that pertain to violations of the private and public tree by-law. There are current provisions set out in both by-laws for ensuring compliance. Staff brought forward recommendations in May for Council to consider on improving enforcement within the private tree by-law. Single family residential construction is regulated by the City's private tree by-law and all applications are reviewed against the requirements.

Q - Norway maples are an invasive species and could impede the growth of other native species. Why is it not acceptable to remove these trees without paying a fee or permit from homeowners private properties? Will the context of these tree removals be taken into consideration?

A - Staff understand there are concerns with Norway Maples. Norway Maples were planted widely in many municipalities including Burlington as it was a reliable species for street side landscapes due to its tolerance to a variety of soil types, quick establishment, along with several other characteristics. Norway Maples make up a large amount of the City's current canopy both on public and private property. Removal of Norway Maples without the need for replacement requirements would not be in keeping with the City's canopy targets. Staff understand there is the ability for these species to establish in naturalized areas (e.g., woodlands, or ravines) and become invasive and outcompete native species. The current by-law has a provision for exempting the removal of invasive species as identified within the Invasive Species Act and Weed Control Act. Currently Norway Maple is not listed as a prohibited or restricted species under either Act. Careful consideration will need to be made when determining the approach to this tree species and altering current requirements under the by-laws. Staff are also looking into developing a replanting list of suitable species that homeowners can use a guide.

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