Vancouver's tree police issue 40-page report

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Illegally cut down a tree in Vancouver and expect to get a $10,000 fine

In 1994, the NPA government in Vancouver first implemented a new tree removal by-law. At the time it was quite controversial. Some land owners said this type of legislation was an invasion on their private property rights, while others saw it as an attack on new immigrants. There were also many people who saw this as a positive step in favour of protecting the city's environment.

Fast forward to 2009 and Vancouver is now proposing the tree by-law be repealed and replaced with something more streamlined and effective. A 40+ page report detailing the provisions of the new tree by-law is going before Council for debate on Tuesday.

Not only will the fines for illegally moving a tree be increased to $10,000, a number of other provisions are being implemented which will provide by-law officers with new powers. If the new by-law is enacted, it will help to increase the overall level of enforcement by:

  • Providing clarification of the right to enter onto a property to inspect;
  • Enhancing the provision for inspectors to order any person to discontinue work or to carry out work needed;
  • Providing new provisions clarifying that breach of the by-law may result in a separate charge for each tree and provide a fine for continuing offence.

Some of the other provisions include:

  • clarification that a tree permit is required in all cases of tree removal, not just when site development occurs;
  • clarification that a tree permit is required following an emergency removal;
  • clarification of the requirements for a replacement tree when a tree is removed;
  • addition and/or revision of a number of definitions to clarify roles and authority, including certification requirements for arborists, tree risk assessors, engineers, surveyors and plumbers;
  • a new requirement to post a tree permit in a visible spot during tree removal;
  • addition of an expiry date to a tree permit (valid for 6 months);
  • and relocation of specific requirements from the Guidelines to the By-law, for example, regarding the care of retained trees during construction and the submission requirements for a tree permit.

If you live in Vancouver and are wondering why you haven't heard much about the new tree by-law, the following excerpt from the report might help to provide an answer:

Given that the proposed amendments increase clarity rather than change substantive features of the by-law, public notification will primarily involve informing applicants and the public about the changes if they are approved by Council.This will involve new signage and pamphlets to explain the key changes; these will be available in the Development Services Department. The City’s website will also be updated. Further, staff also intend to place a bulletin (with a link to the updated information on the website) in the Vancouver Matters section of the Vancouver Courier.

If you're wondering whether this new by-law applies to the young sapling in your back yard:

This By-law does not apply to a tree that has a trunk or stem the diameter of which, or two or more trunks or stems the combined diameter of the two or three largest trunks or stems of which, measured 1.4 m above the existing grade of the ground adjoining its base, is less than 20 cm, except for a replacement tree or a tree that is part of a hedge.

You can expect in our new enviro-conscious society this new by-law will be welcomed by tree-huggers and non-tree huggers alike.


Great news - $10 000 fine for cutting down a tree on your own property! In relation to that fines are much lower for drunk driving... perfect sense, naturally of course.

These tree bylaws are likely well-intentioned, but they do provide a perverse disincentive to allow mature trees to grow on a property. Maybe we'll see fewer mature trees on private property in Vancouver in the future?

2 words: tax and grab.

Check out!

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