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Toronto’s trees worth $7 billion; what about Ottawa’s?

Updated: Apr 22

It’s not often that bankers can be accused of loving trees,  although money couldn’t be printed if trees didn’t die to produce paper.


Yesterday was momentous for two reasons. First,  the TD Bank issued a report that pegs the value of Toronto’s urban forest at $7 billion a year. That’s economic value. The bankers, it seems, recognized but were unable to quantify human feelings like love and attachment that also reflect the value of trees in an urban landscape.


“The cost savings produced by our urban forests make it clear that keeping the green on our streets, keeps the green in our wallets,” are the report’s final words. They are fitting, considering the source.


Secondly, the manager of Forestry Services for the City of Ottawa, David Barkley, answered questions at a public event about how his department is working to preserve and maintain healthy, mature trees in Ottawa. Unfortunately, he and his department are not succeeding in that mandate.


I will write more about that negative assessment in the coming days. In the meantime, I’d like to share a few words from the TD Bank’s report on Toronto and show you a table from the report. Here’s the table:


“As a general rule of thumb, we can say bigger is better,” the report states. “Large, healthy trees absorb up to 10 times more air pollutants, 90 times more carbon, and contribute up to 100 times more leaf area to our urban forest canopy relative to smaller trees.”

The numbers in the table show that a tree between 45 and 60 cm in diameter (which is the minimum size to fit the definition of a distinctive tree under Ottawa’s Urban Tree Conservation By-law) is storing TWICE  as much carbon as trees one rung down on the ladder.  Trees larger than 75 cm in diameter are storing NINE times as much carbon as those that measure a measly 44 cm or less.


Look at the figures on the table for pollutants removed by large trees. And then ask yourself: why does the City of Ottawa not want to protect healthy mature trees like the bur oaks in Champlain Park from damage and destruction due to human activity? The by-law that’s been in force since 2009 says the city is supposed to be doing this.


I believe that the practices of Forestry Services are falling far short of the intent of the by-law our elected officials passed five years ago. --Debra Huron

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