Proposed bylaw would require Banff, Alta. property owners to remove fruit trees

Black bear gorging on berries in the middle of a forest Photo by Brad Doerksen/Shutterstock

The Town of Banff is proposing a bylaw that would allow them to order property owners to remove “fruit-bearing plants” from their properties.

Banff environmental services manager Michael Hay proposed the bylaw at the town’s June 26 governance and finance committee meeting. It would require the removal of plants such as crabapple trees, cherry trees, mountain ash, and other bushes that produce attractants. Based on an informal review done by the township, there are around 25 properties with crabapple trees.

Banff mayor Corrie DiManno says this comes after a 2022 incident where Parks Canada had to euthanize two bears—a mother and her cub—who wandered into the town to visit multiple crabapple trees. 

“It was quite tragic, and we see this (proposal) as a way to prevent this in the future,” DiManno says.

Since 2019, there have been more than 100 Banff wildlife sightings connected to attractants like garbage, food waste, and fruit trees. At the June 26 meeting, Hay said he hopes to reduce future incidents of human-wildlife conflict to zero by 2028.

To that end, Banff and Parks Canada have replaced 28 crabapple trees between 2015 and 2017, according to the June 26 meeting notes. The town paid for 100 per cent of the removal and restoration costs, but some property owners refused to remove the plants. DiManno believes this is because they want to preserve the National Park’s original environment as much as possible.

“They’re going to love the trees that are in their yard and it’s hard to say goodbye to trees. But it’s certainly more tragic to have to say goodbye to a bear,” she says. “They also might not be aware this program exists.”

DiManno says passing the bylaw would “give the municipal enforcement team the teeth” to order property owners to remove the plants. They currently only have authority to ask residents to clean up fallen fruit. She’s not sure, however, what would happen to a property owner who refuses to follow the order. 

The committee hasn’t chosen a date to decide on the bylaw. If it passes, the town will be seeking an amendment to the Banff design guidelines to prevent property owners from planting fruit-bearing plants, a process involving the provincial government that could take more than two years.

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