Regional Tree and Forest Conservation By-law
The NPCA handles the administering and enforcement of the Regional Municipality of Niagara Tree and Forest Conservation By-law No. 30-2008 to ensure that tree cutting is carried out under Good Forestry Practices. The by-law was introduced to conserve and improve woodlands in Niagara. It regulates the harvesting of trees in woodlands by cutting, burning or other means and prohibits the clearing of woodlands except under particular circumstances (see Agricultural Exemption). The selective removal of individual trees is provided for, and there are some exemptions, but a permit will be required. NPCA Forestry staff are available to conduct site visits for woodland owners to provide direction and advice regarding forest management and by-law requirements.
Preparing for Emerald Ash Borer and Woodlot Management
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive exotic beetle that attacks and kills all native species of ash trees. The presence of this insect has been confirmed in the Niagara Region and will have a profound impact on the ash tree population (see Emerald Ash Borer Information page for detailed information and resources). Landowners with woodlots that have a significant component of ash are recommended to take steps to diversify their woodlots prior to an EAB infestation (see Woodlot management for EAB).
For more information on EAB see the video below:
Increasing tree species diversity in a woodlot can help to mitigate the long-term impact of EAB. When EAB arrives, the death of the ash trees will create very open conditions in ash-dominated forests. If large saplings of other tree species are present in the forest understory, they will respond to the increase in light conditions and dominate the new forest. Woodlot owners can use good forestry practices to control the timing and size of canopy openings and the selection of trees to remain to encourage the regeneration and growth of tree species other than ash. If left unmanaged, a woodlot with a component of ash will gradually decline through mortality, new ash will continue to regenerate, and young non-ash understory trees will not have been able to establish themselves compared to a managed woodlot. The Forester at the NPCA can visit your woodlot with you and recommend ways to diversify your ash forest and better withstand an outbreak of emerald ash borer.
Good Forestry Practices
Good Forestry Practices refers to forest activities that enable the forest to grow healthy plants, maintain ecological processes and wildlife habitats as well as products. Good forestry practices represent what the forestry professional, forest workers including loggers, and society have come to expect from forest management operations. More specifically good forestry practices:
- Minimize environmental damage to the site (such as soil, water, and young vegetation),
- Protect forest components including species diversity,
- Minimize damage to or enhance wildlife habitats
- Encourage sustainable forest management (improving forest health and continuous and improved forest products over time),
- Provide for worker safety
- Provide continually and increased economic benefits to landowners
- Should be consistent with long-term forest management planning.
Good Forestry Practices Permits issued under this by-law are supported by Forest Management Plans or Silvicultural Prescriptions developed by professionals (OPFA members) licensed to practice forestry in Ontario. NPCA’s forestry experts review each application and harvest operation to verify the use of Good forestry practices. This requires adherence to some fundamental rules that are necessary to help meet landowner objectives while minimizing environmental damage, maintaining species diversity, and retaining significant wildlife habitats and other important features. Under no circumstances is Diameter-Limit Cutting permitted. Listed below are some of the more widely accepted rules to encourage good forestry practices.
- To reduce the impact on forest soils and vegetation, try to harvest only during winter months when the ground is still frozen and preferably snow-covered. If this is not possible, harvest in the fall when the ground is dry. Do not harvest in early spring when the ground is thawing or soft and the bark is easily torn from trees. Where possible, avoid harvesting from March 20th to June 30th while sensitive wildlife species are nesting and/or breeding.
Wildlife habitat protection
- Time harvesting to avoid critical nesting and breeding periods.
- Retain recommended levels of canopy closure and buffer protection for pertinent wildlife habitats (e.g., deeryards, raptor nesting areas, riparian habitats).
- Retain nest, cavity, and den trees as well as future snags and mast trees.
Protection of other forest values
- Do not implement silvicultural prescriptions and activities unless they can be conducted without destroying other important forest values such as the provision of significant wildlife habitat or vegetation cover.
- A Certified Tree Marker must do all tree marking in a woodland. For more information, view the Tree Marking Description document. For more information about tree marketing, see the video below.
- Where possible, retain a 30-meter buffer of uncut densely growing trees beside open fields or other hard edges to reduce windthrow and other damage to the forest interior and minimize invasion by non-native species.
- Maintain buffers of natural vegetation between cut areas and waterbodies, rare vegetation communities, and significant wildlife habitats. Consult the NPCA for information about appropriate buffer sizes for specific natural features.
Where to harvest?
- Do not cut in areas with locally or regionally significant habitat features (e.g., fish spawning habitat; seepage areas; clusters of supercanopy trees; abundant downed woody debris; habitats of species of conservation concern such as warblers, raptors, grouse; areas of dense conifer cover). unless advised to do so or where such cutting is necessary for maintenance of that habitat.
- Avoid cutting along lake and stream shorelines, in wet areas, and around springs and seeps.
- To prevent erosion, cut only on dry slopes less than 35 %.
Cutting and felling
- Use careful directional felling to minimize damage to the residual stand, regeneration, and to the tree that is being felled and to reduce skidding damage (i.e., fell trees so that they can be pulled out of the area as cleanly as possible).
Roads, skid trails, and landings
- Wherever possible, skid trails and roads should avoid steep slopes (e.g., greater than 12% for roads; greater than 20% for skid trails), wet spots, seepage and poorly-drained areas, and intermittent streams.
- Minimize the number and width of skid trails and roads and follow the land contours whenever possible unless seedbed scarification is part of the regeneration prescription.
- Never skid directly up or down a slope.
- Where possible, without lowering product value, skid shorter log lengths.
- Locate landings on well-drained sites away from waterbodies and watercourses.
- Skid trails and roads should approach and cross streams at right angles to minimize impacts on stream banks and to prevent water from flowing down skid trails.
- Minimize the number of stream crossings, cross at only one location and where the stream is narrow and preferably has a rocky bottom. Remember that it is illegal to destroy any fish habitat.
- Approval from the NPCA is required for the construction of structures for crossing streams and other watercourses.
Invasive non-native species
- Hose down forestry equipment between work sites to prevent the introduction of non-native species.
- Remove non-native species to help ensure long-term health of the forest stand.