Jeff Heuchert, Stratford Gazette
A new tree marking service being offered to residents in the Upper Thames watershed isn’t cutting it with one county councillor.
Coun. Bill French, speaking at council’s meeting Thursday, said he is concerned the new service might negatively impact local businesses that offer similar services.
The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority announced last week it now offers its expertise to landowners who require assistance selecting trees for harvest. Up until now, conservation authority staff have acted only in an advisory capacity with landowners.
The conservation authority will select trees to be cut or left based on their growth potential and ability to provide seed or wildlife benefits in the forest. This selection process takes into consideration a variety of tree characteristics, not just tree size.
Tree marking before harvesting improves forest growth and quality, ensures regeneration, and enhances wildlife habitat.
According to the conservation authority, its team of forestry technicians can provide a knowledgeable, impartial perspective to landowners and selective logging contractors.
“We are able to act as an objective third party with forest health as our primary focus,” it said in a statement.
But French suggested the service is a misuse of public funds.
“I am a little concerned that there is taxpayers’ money paying for a service that is infringing on private business,” he added.
Council agreed to have director of planning of development, Dave Hanly, look into the service and what is offered by other conservation authorities and report back at its next meeting.
“I think we need to get all the fact about what they’re doing,” said warden Ian Forrest. “If it’s something we don’t think is fair in terms of the public sector interfering with the private sector, we can start taking the appropriate steps.”