(The Center Square) – The Vancouver City Council has unanimously approved the Vancouver Urban Forestry Management Plan resolution that seeks to reach a 28% tree canopy goal by 2047.
Vancouver’s current 21% tree coverage provides more than $40 million in ecological benefits to the city, according to the plan, which was created in part by software company PlanIT GEO. However, in order to reach the 28% tree canopy goal, it would cost the city tens of millions of dollars, as previously reported by The Center Square.
The draft plan estimates in one scenario that the city would spend approximately $25 million over 25 years in order to plant 100% of the 124,900 trees needed to reach 28% tree canopy cover by 2047.
If 100% of the trees were planted through city contracts, the cost would amount to $56.2 million through 2047.
The resolution states that the adoption of the plan has no direct impact on the city budget, but implementation of individual action items will require some expenditure of funds and staff time. Action items can be implemented as departmental budgets, staffing levels and work plans allow.
None of the city councilmembers voiced any concerns on the potential costs of the Urban Forestry Management Plan during Monday’s city council meeting, but some other aspects of the plan were questioned.
Vancouver Mayor Pro Tem Ty Stober raised concerns about the city experiencing a loss of trees on private property, the quality of trees that would be planted and street tree trimming.
“It seems to me that we have a conflict between the health of our tree canopy and the health of our power grid,” Stober said in the Vancouver City Council meeting on Oct. 23.
Ray said the city’s urban forestry team has conducted meetings with Clark County Public Utilities to ensure it is following national standards and address any conflicts the department may have. He added that the public utilities department is required to have 10 feet of clearance around their lines, so when trees interfere, they get removed or replaced.
The plan also includes a city pruning program that includes hiring six new full-time positions at an annual cost of $553,811; four arborists and two crew supervisors. The total cost for a new public tree maintenance team is estimated at $900,621 for the hiring of new positions, as well as the purchases of gear and equipment.
The city’s Urban Forestry Management Plan was originally drafted as an ordinance but was changed to a resolution because it did not change any ordinances or law. Therefore, there was no public hearing on the plan.
However, the city conducted separate surveys with external stakeholder and city staff members in the first two months of 2023, in which 74 survey responses were received. Results identified similar goals, including increasing funding to increase canopy cover and increasing tree preservation and planting efforts that are aligned with goals for tree canopy equity, according to the draft plan.
Now that the Urban Forestry Management Plan resolution has been approved, city staff will update the draft and post the final plan in the near future, according to Vancouver Communications Director Laura Shepard.