The Township of Glengarry is taking the region’s first crack at finding the middle ground in the contentious issue of clear-cutting and is seeking the public’s input on a proposed bylaw which would require permits to be issued before any large land clearing projects are undertaken.

Glengarry is the first area municipality to release a draft version of a bylaw to regulate the clear-cutting of trees and is seeking the public’s input by July 1. The draft Clear Cutting By-law applies to the clear-cutting of trees in areas greater than one hectare (2.5 acres). If passed, applicants will be required to submit an application along with a fee of $50 per acre up to a maximum of $500 per clear-cutting.

Clear-cutting is a contentious issue within the township and the region and the proposed bylaw is aimed at finding middle ground between those who support clear-cutting and those who would like to see the practice stopped entirely, said Jacob Rheaume, Director of Building, Bylaw and Planning for the Township of North Glengarry. The bylaw will also provide the township with awareness of planned projects and should alleviate some of the historical issues caused by unregulated clear-cutting in the municipality.

“We were seeing a lot of clear-cutting happening which we were not made aware of and it did create some issues – especially with fire departments,” Rheaume commented. “There were fires that were too large and there were many issues with smoke.”

The township addressed many of the burning issues by approving a new bylaw last November to control open-air fires. Among the most important portions of By-Law 49-2019 was a change which prohibits open farm and agricultural fires during the period of June 1 to November 1.

The clear-cutting bylaw addresses some of the issues not covered by the burning bylaw, including the difference in taxation rates between forest and cleared land. Rheaume noted the township has received multiple inquiries about whether cleared land is being taxed at the proper rate. Other issues addressed by the new bylaw include woodlands boundaries around waterways, roadways and neighboring properties, as well as public nuisance issues.

Rheaume said the draft bylaw is not intended to inhibit farmers from clearing their land, but aims to provide a process for the practice of clear-cutting woodlands.

“What people need to do now instead of just go ahead and cut is they just have to apply for a permit,” he noted. “The farmers will still be able to cut their trees. They have to – it’s their life; it’s their work.”

The issue is a hot button for many people in the region and the bylaw may not satisfy either those who oppose or stand for the practice of clear-cutting, however it was written taking input from both sides into accoun,t Rheaume said.

“It’s a touchy bylaw – you have some who want to cut everything with no regulation whatsoever and then you have other people who do not want the cutting at all,” he noted. “We’re just aiming for the middle. We cannot prevent the farmers from cutting their trees. What we can do is regulate it to ensure it is done properly.”

While the new bylaw is not ideal, it is a step in the right direction, said North Glengarry resident Pete Bock of the group Glengarry Neighbours, which has lobbied municipalities in the area to take action on unregulated clear cutting of forest lands.

“It’s great they’ve taken a step in the right direction,” Bock commented. “It’s a little bit brave and progressive of (township council) because it’s really the first in our area. There are quite a few bylaws in Western Ontario, but it seems as though Eastern Ontario has been really slow to do anything at all (to regular clear-cutting).”

Bock was optimistic about what he described as “the meat of the bylaw” which will require landowners to apply for a permit to clear land in excess of one hectare:

“Hopefully it will slow things down a little bit and it will get people thinking a lot more.”

Other provisions of the proposed bylaw which caught Bock’s attention included the one which requires woodland boundaries along waterways, roadways and neighboring lands. He said while the draft proposal could have gone further he understood the township’s need to walk a fine political line with the document.

“It’s not as far as we (Glengarry Neighbours) would like them to go and we will probably ask them to reconsider a few things but (council has) been looking at this for a chunk of time and it looks like this may be where they want to start.”

Anyone who wishes to obtain more information, or to request a copy of the Clear Cutting By-Law and supporting documentation can contact the Township of North Glengarry Building, By-Law and Planning Department by email at [email protected] More information, including a copy of the complete draft Clear Cutting By-Law can be found on the Township of North Glengarry’s website at the following link:

Written comments regarding the proposed bylaw can also be emailed to [email protected]. The deadline for submitting written comments is July 1.