From 2,000 to 10,000 a year: Saanich councillors want to see more trees planted


Saanich councillors have voted in favour for staff to find ways to reach a tree-planting goal of 10,000 per year.

A new report from Diamond Head Consulting found that the District of Saanich has improved on its Urban Forest Strategy, but more work is needed.

The State of the Urban Forest report comes 10 years after the district laid out its initial strategy, which collects information on the district’s tree management program.

Saanich was given a rating of “fair” but says current goals aren’t enough to continue fulfilling their commitments.

“We’re sliding backwards, we’re losing trees. So by upping our target, we start to plant more trees to get closer to 10,000 a year, that gives us the opportunity to reverse that trend,” said Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock.

In 2019, Saanich increased its commitment to planting 2,000 trees per year until 2025 as part of its Climate Action Plan target. The target is 10,000 trees and as of now, the district has planted over 6,100 trees.

Those numbers are dwindling a bit and the report highlighted that more than half of the trees planted in Saanich were replacement trees.

“This means that only one out of every two trees planted are new trees that add to Saanich’s urban forest canopy,” the report stated.

The push for 10,000 trees a year also stems from some district neighbourhoods failing to meet their tree canopy goal.

An initial 36 per cent canopy covering target was suggested in 2010 for each neighbourhood in Saanich. In 2021, the district also endorsed a “3:30:300” rule for its urban forest management.

Each home should be able to see at least three trees and all neighbourhoods should have at least 30 per cent canopy coverage, as well as all homes should be within 300 metres of a park or greenspace.

Only Rural Saanich, Cadboro Bay, Royal Oak, and Gordon Head surpassed 36 per cent. Saanich Core, Tillicum, Carey, Shelbourne, and North Quadra all scored below 30 per cent.

Murdock says they are looking to expand its tree planting on district properties, roads, and parks, but admits space would run out quickly. He wants to look at ways to incentivize residents to plant on their own property.

“Maybe there’s a granting system or utility tax incentivizes that can be applied so that we’re supporting that household to be responsible for that tree or multiple trees,” said Murdock.

Staff was directed on Monday to also find scalable options for the district to eventually reach the 10,000 trees per year target.

The report is expected to be ready in the fall.

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