04/16/2014 06:40 EDT | Updated 06/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Tree cutting now requires special Vancouver permit

Vancouver approved a bylaw change Wednesday that will restrict tree cutting on private property in order protect the city's healthy, mature urban canopy

The bylaw change will force homeowners to get approval from an independent arborist if they want to cut down a healthy tree on their property.

Previously, homeowners could remove one tree a year without needing any justification or rationale.

The city says a review of Vancouver's urban canopy since 1996 found that more than 23,000 healthy trees were removed for either private or public development.

That accounts for nearly half of the total number of trees removed over the past 17 years.

The review also found that 22 per cent of the city was covered by  tree canopy in 1996.  Today, it's only 18 per cent — a  seven per cent decline.  Most of Vancouver's trees are on private property.

Homeowner Karin Litzcke went to council to speak against the change.

She's taken down three healthy trees on or near or property and has spent the last 28 years in her Vancouver home "fighting with trees."

"The ability to remove trees from your property is being reduced dramatically and you basically have to beg , which is very degrading when you're doing the work of taking care of the tree," she said.

"The human element of living with trees is not factored into the process here."

Typically five people a day ask for permits to cut down trees. When it was announced last week that council was considering making it more restrictive to remove trees, 50 people showed up. 

The city says retaining Vancouver's urban forest will pay off environmentally with mitigating climate change, cleaning the air, stabilizing the soil and supporting biodiversity.