Saving Canada’s Urban Forests: Help Protect A Landmark Legal Victory for Mature, Healthy Trees

Last summer, a Toronto resident sued her neighbors because they objected to her cutting down a beautiful, healthy, shared maple tree growing on the property line. Hilary and Stephen Scharper, both professors at the University of Toronto, were not consulted … Continue reading

The Maple Leaf Forever Tree Continues to Inspire Us….

From the City of Toronto website On July 19, 2013 a storm brought down an aged silver maple tree on Laing Street in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood. This famed maple tree was believed to be the inspiration for the song … Continue reading

The Tree Trust: Protecting Shared Trees

A landmark court ruling protects shared trees from one co-owner unilaterally destroying them. Save this law from being repealed! Environment – Toronto, Ontario, Canada We, Hilary and Stephen Scharper, are professors at the University of Toronto who both love and value trees. … Continue reading

Community Solutions in a Changing Climate Symposium – In Pictures

The Community Solutions in a Changing Climate Symposium hosted in May 2013 by the Association of Canadian Educational Resources (ACER), Carolinian Canada, and the Ontario Urban Forest Council brought together students, ENGOs, engaged citizens and scientists together to share data and address climate change issues.

Enjoy a few pictures from the successful event.

OUFC Executive Director, Jack Radecki leads a presentation.

Symposium gathering

Don MacIver (R) – Climatologist and a co recipient of the IPCC team Nobel Peace Prize – 2007 with Al Gore, shown with OUFC advisors Edith George and Peter Dmytrasz

Sadia Buti –  Masters student in Forest Conservation, leads a discussion.

The OUFC booth packed with information for participants.

OUFC Board Member Peter Wynnyczuk (L) chats with delegate

OUFC Advisor Edith George at the OUFC cocktail party

Edith George brings OUFC birthday greetings to our fearless ED!

Celebration Tree Plant marking the occasion of the OUFC’s 60th birthday.


Landmark Court Case Protects Private Trees in Ontario

Good news for our urban trees!

Press Release:

TORONTO‐‐May 21, 2013

A landmark decision on the environment was reached on May 17, 2013 by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto.

Justice Moore ruled that trees whose trunks grow across private property lines are the common property of both owners. Owing to this ruling, one owner cannot injure or destroy a shared tree without the consent of the neighboring owner.

Under the Ontario Forestry Act, which Justice Moore cited, violation of this provision could result in a $20,000 fine and/or imprisonment. The ruling gives better protection to trees located on private property and helps preserve Toronto’s dwindling tree canopy.

Justice Moore also rejected the argument that the only thing that matters when determining shared trees is whether the trunk crosses the boundary line at ground level. According to his ruling, if any part of the tree’s trunk crosses the property boundary, it is a co‐owned tree.

This new ruling now prevents one owner from arbitrarily and unilaterally removing a tree whose trunk straddles a property line—a practice that expert arborists claim is happening with alarming frequency throughout Toronto and other municipalities.

The ruling comes from Hartley vs. Scharper in which Toronto resident Katherine Hartley sued her neighbors to obtain sole ownership over a mature, healthy maple tree whose trunk also grew in her neighbor’s yard. Without notice to her neighbors, Hartley obtained a permit to destroy the tree from the City of Toronto’s Urban Forestry department.

Clayton Ruby, counsel for the Scharpers, successfully argued that the maple tree was not only healthy, but also that if any part of a tree’s trunk is growing across a property line, it is co‐owned and cannot be injured or destroyed without a neighbor’s consent. According to Mr. Ruby:

“This increases the number of trees that cannot be cut down without the adjoining property owners’ consent. Toronto’s tree canopy is a precious common resource that helps make Toronto the beautiful, livable place we all love.”

Ms. Hartley obtained a permit to destroy the maple tree on the basis of a report produced by a non‐certified arborist who had also been hired to remove the tree. The Scharpers commissioned a report by expert, certified arborists who concluded that the tree was healthy and vigorous, and would benefit from cabling.The Scharpers subsequently shared their report with the City and asked that the permit be suspended until the matter was properly investigated. Mr. Jim Hart, General Manager of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation, declined to suspend the permit and took no further action.

Hilary and Stephen Scharper, both professors at the University of Toronto, were delighted and relieved by the ruling:

“Not only is this healthy, beautiful tree saved, but also potentially tens of thousands of shared trees across the province now have an extra layer of protection. The ecological benefits of these trees are so critical to the health of Ontario’s municipalities and this ruling is a huge step forward in tree conservation.”

For information or a copy of the judgment, please contact: Clayton Ruby T: (416) 964‐9664

E: Hilary Scharper T: (416) 656‐9028


MANITOBA government creates heritage tree program

Tree huggers, unite.

The province, through legislation introduced today, will create a provincial heritage tree program to recognize and protect trees that have environmental, cultural, social and historic importance.

The province says the first-in-Canada legislation, amendments to the Forest Health Protection Act, will bring additional protection measures for designated heritage trees on Crown land to prevent their removal for reasons other than health or safety.

“All trees are an important part of our communities, but some are exceptional and irreplaceable, and deserve stronger protection,” Mackintosh, adding the program will run in partnership with the Manitoba Forestry Association.

The forestry association has run its own heritage tree-designation program for several years.

Rivers West—Red River Corridor Inc., which promotes the Red River from Emerson to Lake Winnipeg, also supports the provincial program.

The province will also develop online and plaque programs for designated trees. It will also seek private sponsor funding opportunities.

All potentially significant trees could be considered for nomination. The designation process would also consider any landowner concerns before a tree receives heritage tree status, the province says.–205268901.html

SAVE THE DATE! Nov. 15th

The Ontario Urban Forest Council have planned a special Conference in Toronto to mark our 50th Anniversary.

Fostering Sustainable Behaviours,  Fostering Urban Forests

How do we as urban forest advocates change community behaviours for the better on an individual basis that is actionable and sustainable?

By using social psychology to first identify the “root” behaviours and barriers to change and then developing community wide strategies and techniques to incent and elicit true behavioural change.  This full day presentation will show how this methodology can be applied specifically to urban forest needs while also profiling the successful results it has already achieved in fostering community wide recycling, waste reduction, pollution prevention, energy and water efficiency, transportation, watershed protection, and soil conservation.

We would be hard pressed today to find anyone who doesn’t give at least lip service support to environmental concerns and issues of sustainability. Everyone it seems is for fresh air, clean water, and more trees in an urban context. But how many people  (residents, communities, decision makers etc) care or are motivated enough to actually change their own behavior to support these interests? All too often it’s a case of NIBYism: “I support urban forests, with the exception of the tree in my yard that needs to be cut down.”

Our featured speaker Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr has been working to incorporate scientific knowledge on behavior change into the design and delivery of community programs for over two decades.  He is the founder of community-based social marketing, and his book, “Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An introduction to Community Based Social Marketing,” has become requisite reading for those who deliver programs to promote sustainable behavior. He has delivered workshops internationally for over 40,000 environmental program managers.

Dr. McKenzie-Mohr has worked internationally with a diverse array of governmental and non-governmental agencies, assisting them in identifying the barriers to behavior change and in developing community based social marketing initiatives to overcome these barriers. 

Read more at Dr. Mohr’s website “Fostering Sustainable Behaviour”