Urban Forest Questions for HRM Candidates - Mayoral Candidate Mike Savage

Halifax Diverse has been active in urban environmental stewardship for four years and we understand the importance of a healthy urban forest to thriving cities. With the upcoming municipal election (online now and at the polls on October 15), we wanted to find out if all candidates plan to be good urban forest stewards. We asked the same nine questions of all 56 municipal candidates and 26 replied (click here for the entire list).

Here are Mike Savage's (Candidate for Mayor) answers to our questions.

Candidate's responses are in regular font, like this!

1.         Why are trees important to you?

In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, trees are an important part of the character, charm and livability of our communities.

2.         Can you relate a fond memory of trees or a tree in particular?

When I was a boy growing up in Wales, we had an apple tree in our yard and my greatest ambition at the time was to climb that tree, in part because it was there but also because from the tree I could scramble over the backyard fence.

As an adult I visited that house again and saw the tree of my boyhood aspirations was much bigger in my memory than in reality.

3.         Why are trees important in HRM?

Trees not only provide a great aesthetic, they serve very practical environmental purposes. They provide shade and when planted near buildings can reduce the energy demand for cooling in the heat of summer. In winter they knock down cold winds, again helping to reduce the demand for energy to provide heating. Trees also absorb water lowering demand on stormwater collection and the risk of localized flooding. In addition they help improve air quality by absorbing carbon and lowering ozone levels.

HRM's Urban Forest Master Plan

The HRM UFMP is a council endorsed plan co-written by HRM staff and members of Dalhousie University's School for Resource and Environmental Studies. This award winning document provides guidance for the management of HRM's urban forest into the future using a novel neighbourhood system developed specifically for the UFMP that divides the sewer and water serviced areas of HRM into 111 neighbourhoods.  It can be found digitally at: http://www.halifax.ca/property/UFMP/documents/SecondEditionHRMUFMP.pdf

4.         Which UFMP neighbourhood do you live in?

East Dartmouth

The following are priorities of the UFMP implementation strategy, as described in the UFMP, and are to be implemented within the initial 5-year timeframe:

a.         Increase funding, plant more trees on HRM land and improve urban forest maintenance.

b.         Adopt new regulations and standards to conserve urban forest canopy cover.

c.         Promote citizen urban forest stewardship and develop educational programs.

5.         As we approach the end of the 5-year initial time-frame in 2017, do you believe these priorities have been adequately addressed? Where is there room for the most significant improvement?

I believe we have done well in our support of the UFMP with increased budgets for urban tree planting along neighbourhoods and along boulevards, etc. There is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to public education and sharing of information.

Looking Forward

6.         What do you believe is the greatest threat to the HRM urban forest?

The ongoing storm impacts of climate change. We have already experienced the devastating impact of Hurricane Juan with significant tree loss and weakening of trees that continues to be a problem today. We have similarly seen an increased frequency of ice storms, this summer’s drought, and new threats from tree pests. This underscores the need to invest in an urban forest that is biodiverse and resilient.

7.         What role do you suggest citizens play in supporting a healthy urban forest?

Residents can contribute to the conversation about green spaces in their neighbourhoods and throughout HRM. They can educate themselves on the benefits, both psychological and practical, that trees provide, and they can be the municipality’s eyes on the health of trees in the public right-of-way along our streets. Private property owners also play an important role in planting trees and maintaining trees on their property.

8.         How will you promote and contribute to a healthy urban forest as mayor?

I will continue to support the Council-adopted UFMP along with the budgets and partnerships needed to make it successful.

Originating out of the Mayor’s Conversation on a Healthy, Livable Community, Council approved the planting of the city’s first urban orchard at the Dartmouth Common Community Garden. Since then, many community gardens have moved to incorporate fruit and nut-bearing trees.

HRM is unique in that it is the largest municipality, geographically speaking, in North America. Urban forest for us represents not only city streets and urban core but vast tracts of rural expanse. We are already making great strides in protecting green space and it's my intention to stay on that track. Council recently voted to negotiate to obtain the lands needed to protect the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove wilderness area and is moving to do the same with the Purcell's Cove backlands. In addition we are partnering with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust to protect the Eastern Shore's 100 Wild Islands, a pristine archipelago within easy commute of the downtown. It is important to protect these natural assets close to our urban centre, while at the same time continuing to plant trees and build more biodiversity and resiliency into our urban parks and along our streets.

Since the Urban Forest Master Plan was adopted in 2012, I have supported budgets that have seen more than 4,600 new street trees planted and continue to support the ongoing monitoring of the urban trees in partnership with Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies.

9.         What changes would you like to see HRM's urban forest in the next 10 years?

I would like to see us continue to incorporate fruit and nut trees in our parks and community gardens to increase access to healthy food. While we have done well to plant replacement trees for those lost to Hurricane Juan, other storm damage and infestations, I would like to see us keep pressure on this issue to improve the number and diversity of trees that form our urban canopy.  I hope by then fruits from municipal trees will be a regular contributor to urban food security.


Thank you to Mike Savage and all the other candidates who took the time to answer our questionnaire. We hope that our new municipal government will continue to improve urban forest stewardship in HRM to protect a vital natural resource that cannot be taken for granted. Voters are encouraged to challenge their candidates' stance on this and other environmental issues to ensure our municipal government strives for environmental sustainability. Anyone interested in learning more about the Urban Forest Master Plan can learn more from the document, found here, or the UFMP page, found here

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