The Urban Forest – an oxymoron? Not really. It was a term coined in the 1960’s to refer to tree populations in our city centres. It’s also a field of study and endeavour dedicated to the protection of those trees, and a subject about which Canadians are becoming increasingly passionate and tenacious.

More than 80 percent of Canadians now live in urban centres, yet we still recognize the practical and poetic benefits of trees. Many of us may even have a favourite tree, one that serves as a marker in our life or the life of our community. Trees also help clean the air, help in energy conservation by providing shade, and contribute both to the beauty of a community, and yes, to the psychological well-being of people. But city trees face challenges too – not enough growing space, contaminated soils, traffic and insect infestations that can wipe out whole species.

These are all issues familiar to the four guests The Sunday Edition invited to talk on the topic of Urban Forests. Andy Kenney is a pioneer in the field, and was a long-time professor of Forestry with the University of Toronto. He’s now retired and living in Lanark, Ontario. He joined the discussion from Ottawa, along with Joanna Dean, a professor in the history faculty at Carleton who studies environmental history, Shelley Vescio, a forester with the city of Thunder Bay, and Martha Barwinsky, a forester for the city of Winnipeg.
Read and listen at: http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/shows/2013/03/24/urban-forests/
Oak Bay Council has recently referred to the Parks & Recreation Commission a request to work on developing an Urban Forest Strategy for Oak Bay. The Commission has set up a committee for this and is to report back to Council in June with a plan on how to proceed in developing the overall urban forest strategy by 2014. A key point is to ensure this proceeds consistent with the principles and process of the current work to review the Oak Bay Official Community Plan.
Saanich and Victoria have already developed such overall strategic plans to protect, maintain, and enhance their urban forests (see links below).

Saanich: http://www.saanich.ca/parkrec/parks/trees/urban.html
Victoria: http://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/departments/parks-rec-culture/parks/urban-forest/master-plan.html
See also this recent, related article from the Victoria Times-Colonist by Patricia Johnson:
http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-urban-trees-deserve-more-value-than-buildings-1.63821