Southern Ontario County fines landowners for cutting down their own trees
Don and Donna Kowaluk live in a rural, agricultural area of southern Ontario, near Strathroy.
About 15 years ago, 22,500 trees were planted on the Kowaluk’s property.
Last winter, the Kowaluk’s decided to turn their land back into agricultural land.
They had half the acreage harvested when the woodlands conservation officer of their county placed stop-work orders on their tree-cutting.
As it turns out, the county views the tree-cutting as a clear-cut, even though the land is zoned agricultural.
“I cannot allow . . . to have more woodlots taken out of the structure of Middlesex County,” said Deputy Mayor Vance Blackmore of Southwest Middlesex.
Middlesex County requires landowners to request permission to cut down their trees, and have fined the couple $400/acre (about $3,000) for the trees they have already cut down. The money will go to the county’s tree fund.
The County has also denied permission for the landowners to continue cutting the rest of the trees.
The County Council was clearly annoyed by the Kowaluk’s decision to cut down their trees. Middlesex Centre Mayor Al Edmondson said $400 barely covers the cost to replace a mature tree, let alone an acre of young trees. “It seems like $400 is an insult because it invites people to cut down trees with minimal penalty,” he said.
Planner Steve Evans noted there was little option to prosecute this case under the county’s Woodlands Conservation bylaw because there was no way to prove when the trees were cut down or by whom.
Just up the road from the Kowaluk’s, another landowner has partially cut his 25 acre property that was planted with conifers in 1979. Stop work orders have also been placed on the cut, and now lawyers for the owner are appealing the County’s orders.
County council cuts down clear-cut requests (London Free Press)