Regional Woodland Conservation By-law No. 2020-79

The Niagara Region Woodland Conservation By-law No. 2020-79 governs the protection and preservation of woodlands in Niagara. The intent of the by-law is to conserve woodlands and ensure that, where tree cutting occurs, it's carried out under good forestry practices.

The by-law prohibits the injury or destruction of any tree located within a woodland or designated as a Heritage Tree or a Significant Community Tree except under certain specified circumstances.

In the past, logging operations often employed the diameter or size limit approach. This resulted in the removal of larger, more valuable trees. Selective cutting or removal of individual trees within woodlands is provided for, but in most cases a permit is required. The by-law does contain certain exemptions.

The Regional forester can conduct site visits for woodland owners to provide direction and advice on woodland management and by-law requirements.

Woodlands affected

Woodlands are defined in Section 1.33 of the by-law on the basis of tree density and size. A woodland may include lands on one or more properties.

The Woodland Conservation By-law applies to:

  • Woodlands that are 1.0 hectare or more in size
  • Woodlands having an area of less than 1.0 hectare upon delegation of such authority to the Region by a local municipality in Niagara
  • Heritage and significant community trees identified and designated by the council of a local municipality, but only upon delegation of such authority to the Region

Delegation of authority from local municipalities

The following local municipalities have delegated authority to the Region to deal with woodlands less than one hectare in size:

  • Grimsby
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Niagara Falls
  • St. Catharines
  • West Lincoln

If you have any concerns about woodlands less than one hectare in size in municipalities not listed above, contact the local municipality.

Restrictions in the by-law on tree cutting

Under the by-law, trees located in woodlands cannot be cut unless:

  • A Good Forestry Practices Permit has been issued by the Region; or
  • The cutting meets one of the exemptions listed in the by-law

A Good Forestry Practices Permit may be issued after the owner submits a permit application form along with a Prescription or Forest Management Plan prepared by a qualified member of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association, and the trees have been marked by a certified tree marker.

A Good Forestry Practices Permit must be submitted at least four weeks before cutting starts. The permit holder must notify the Regional forester at least 48 hours before cutting and when resuming activities after any four-week period of inactivity.

Exemptions to the by-law

The by-law does not apply to trees cut or removed:

  • For an owner's personal use, subject to meeting several criteria, such as good forestry practices are used; no commercial sale of trees; a woodland and minimum basal area are maintained, etc.
  • If they are dead and / or diseased trees, as identified in a Prescription or Forest Management Plan prepared by a registered professional forester or member of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association, or hazard trees
  • By a registered farmer clearing for agricultural purposes, provided it follows good agricultural and forestry practices; the land is used for agricultural purposes within three years; and, the land is not in a sensitive natural area as defined in the by-law
  • For surveying purposes
  • Where a building permit has been issued by a local area municipality
  • In accordance with a Tree Preservation Plan approved as part of a development project
  • By a municipality for activities or matters undertaken for municipal purposes
  • By a transmitter or distributor as defined in the Electricity Act
  • On an approved waste disposal site
  • On land described in a licence for a pit or quarry, or a permit for a wayside pit or wayside quarry
  • For construction of drainage works under the Drainage Act
  • On Christmas tree plantations, orchards and tree nurseries
  • On contaminated lands in order to conduct site rehabilitation activities to remove and / or treat contaminated soils. A reforestation plan is required before approval.

Appeals to Regional Council

An applicant may appeal to Regional Council if the by-law officer refuses to issue a permit. An application must be made within 30 days after the refusal.

If an applicant wishes to appeal the conditions of a permit, an appeal to Regional Council must be made within 30 days of the permit issuance.

Stop work orders

Where a by-law enforcement officer is satisfied that a contravention of the by-law has occurred, the officer may issue an order requiring the person who contravened the by-law, or who caused it to be contravened, to stop the injuring or destruction of trees. Orders requiring the rehabilitation or replacing of tree(s) may also be issued.


The by-law provides for fines to individuals on first conviction of up to $10,000 or $1,000 per tree, whichever is greater. Where a corporation is responsible, the fines may be up to $50,000 or $5,000 per tree. On subsequent convictions the fines can be higher.

Good forestry practices

Good forestry practices refer to forest activities that enable the forest to grow healthy plants; maintain ecological processes, wildlife habitats and products. Good forestry fractices represent what the forestry professionals, forest workers including loggers, and society have come to expect from forest management operations. Good forestry practices:

  • Minimize environmental damage to the site, such as soil, water and young vegetation
  • Protect forest components including species diversity
  • Minimize damage to or enhance wildlife habitats
  • Encourage sustainable forest management, improving forest health and continuous and improved forest products over time
  • Provide for worker safety
  • Provide continually and increased economic benefits to landowners
  • Should be consistent with long-term forest management planning

Good Forestry Practices Permits issued under this by-law are supported by Forest Management Plans or Silvicultural Prescriptions developed by professionals (Ontario Professional Foresters Association members) licensed to practise forestry in Ontario.

The Regional forester is responsible for the review of each application and harvest operation to verify the use of good forestry practices. This requires following some fundamental rules to help meet landowner objectives, while minimizing environmental damage, maintaining species diversity, and retaining significant wildlife habitats and other important features. Under no circumstances is diameter-limit cutting permitted.

Contact the Regional Forester

Send questions or requests for information concerning this by-law to:

Daniel Root
Email Daniel Root

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