Chainsaw Timeline

From First Notice to Chainsaws in 5 Days

Notre Dame Poplars on Kaslo Street

Before …

Sat, June 6:  An email arrives from the school — “tree work” will start next week.
Surely not? It’s nesting season!!!
Sun, June 7: We write to the school to ask how they plan to do this “tree work” without disturbing nesting birds.
Mon, June 8: A reply from the school:

With regards to the status of the existing trees,  which are addressed within our Building Permits and requirements, our landscape architects have a registered biologist currently conducting a review of the existing trees to be removed to confirm if there are any birds currently nesting in the trees.  This is a provincial requirement based on the Wildlife Act and is standard throughout BC for construction happening on treed sites between the months of March and August.  There are a range of requirements that need to be met to consider a nest “active” and the biologist assesses the trees for these requirements.  If nesting is present the biologist will provide guidelines for how to treat the nest and what timelines are required to ensure the Act is met.  There are strict protocols that we have to follow and these are being adhered to.

June 9-10: A frantic series of calls are made to City Hall to see how this could happen. Attempts are made to find out who to contact at Environment Canada as this seems contrary to federal rules.
I write my blog post about how a nest count seems unfeasible and send it, and an accompanying letter, to Vancouver Mayor and Council.

June 10: We hear that the school-hired biologist’s report has been submitted, stating that, in all of those 23 trees there is just a single White Crowned sparrow nest, so while some trees will be spared (the nest tree and some buffer trees) until June 23, pending another nest inspection, the rest can be cut immediately.

We don’t even know what the biologist’s report contained for sure, as it’s not publicly available. Incredibly, we were informed that a Freedom of Information request has to be submitted and processed, something that takes weeks or months, before we can see it.

June 11: (only 3 working days after the email warning of “tree work” arrived) most of the trees are gone. Not enough time or information to mount a fight to save them just until nesting season was over — and I can’t help but think this was part of the strategy.
The biologist who wrote the report was not present on the work site.
There were a host of community safely issues with the work site that had to be reported to City Hall, which I won’t go into here as that’s a whole other story — but speed over safety seemed to be the order of the day.

June 12:  I receive an email from Mr. Sadhu Johnson, Vancouver’s City Manager, detailing how all the legal i’s and t’s were dotted and crossed, to make this cutting permit legally watertight from the City’s point of view.

Fallen Poplars, June 12

Fallen poplars. Look how sound the wood looks.


This huge end tree was not noted as a nest site by the school’s biologist — but I heard white crowned sparrows in there every morning this spring.

after pano



For, reaction, what I learned from this process and where I’d like to go next see Conditional Bird Love.


For more background see the Notre Dame Neighbours web site.

10 thoughts on “Chainsaw Timeline

  1. I am heartsick for you over this travesty. This is how our government departments operate from the Prime Minister on down. Do the dirty deed and say it was all legal as far as they were concerned.

    Dear June, my condolences

  2. June, I was holding out for a last minute reprieve, knowing it wouldn’t happen, and imagining the worst. I’m finding this very upsetting, can’t think how awful you feel. Your landscape altered overnight. And the birds! This is how people become cynical about civic authorities. I’m passing on your blogs to Stuart McKinnon, Park Bd Commissioner, friend and former colleague, who lives across from me. Thanks for going to the limit for the neighbourhood and our urban wildlife. I’ll be watching for notice of events at your studio. The photos of birds in your latest blog are heartbreaking. Allison Sullings

    Sent from my iPad


  3. That video clip was so sad with the sparrow looking for its nest 😥 Sorry, the rest of my response would not be too polite – directed to the person in the City that thought this was a good idea 🙄 Thank you June for trying to have them do the right thing.

  4. Dear June, so sad from several perspectives. With all we are aware of environmentally, finally, a compromise could have been reached not just for nesting season but also long term.
    Imagine if the school had turned it into a positive solution and the joy the children could have received being part of it by committing to kindness knowing all life is worth embracing.
    An opportunity lost! Feeling for you and your community from Western Australia.

  5. This is heartbreaking. The death of a whole little world. Thank you for bearing witness.
    “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. ..As a man is, so he sees.” William Blake in a 1799 letter

  6. This is all so very distressing. I’m so very, very sorry. I’m mad, sad, bewildered, and enraged for the birds, the trees and the neighbourhood.

    Thanks for keeping us all informed, even when the news is terrible.

    You are a champion!


    On Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 12:38 PM The Urban Nature Enthusiast wrote:

    > The Urban Nature Enthusiast posted: “From First Notice to Chainsaws in 5 > Days Sat, June 6: An email arrives from the school — “tree work” will > start next week. Surely not? It’s nesting season!!! Sun, June 7: We write > to the school to ask how they plan to do this “tree work” without distur” >

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