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Kill a City of Kelowna tree and face hefty fines

Trees in Ben Lee Park
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
March 06, 2021 - 8:00 PM

With some trees in Kelowna being valued as high as $40,000 the city is looking at boosting fines for developers who kill them.

“Any time construction activity compacts the soil above or around a tree or does any damage to the stem that ultimately results in mortality it is an infraction,” Tara Bergeson, an urban forestry technician with the city told

Council will be asked Monday to increase the basic fine for killing a tree to $500 from $100. But, a serious offence can lead to a charge that carries a penalty of up to $50,000 per infraction.

The bylaw only applies to trees on city-owned property and includes rules on fencing off trees to protect the root ball as well as the stem and branches.

“It is our intention through the amendment to this bylaw first, to ensure adequate and effective tree protection is in place prior to any adjacent works, and thus prevent the need to levy fines,” Bergeson said in an email. “However, where necessary, the proposed increases to penalties are intended to help recoup the financial losses associated with tree damage and removal.”

Over the past five years, there have been up to 11 infractions relating to trees each year.

The fences have to be at least 1.2 metres from the tree trunk for smaller trees and up to six metres for large trees in order to make sure the root ball isn’t damaged. Things like garbage or building materials cannot be piled against the temporary fences.

“Without this protection, trees are often compromised during construction, but the damage does not show up until much later,” Bergeson wrote in her report.

While this bylaw only deals with trees on city-owned property, Kelowna and other cities actively encourage residents to grow their own trees by offering new plantings at reduced costs.

“Trees improve air quality by removing atmospheric carbon dioxide, absorbing pollutants and producing oxygen,” the city says on its Urban Trees web page. “The average Canadian urban tree is estimated to remove approximately 200 kilograms of carbon from the environment over an 80-year lifespan.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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