Forest & Land Cover Mapping

Our region is changing rapidly; a result of urban development, land use changes, climate changes, and natural forest aging processes.  To plan for the future, HAT believes that we need to understand what we have today, and try to understand how our region has changed in the past.  Forest and land cover mapping is a quantitative way to help understand our region.

2005 to 2011 Land Cover Mapping 

Habitat Acquisition Trust completed land cover mapping of the Capital Regional District (exlcuding the Gulf Islands). As expected the mapping reveals that the 13 municipalities in the Regional District have lost a significant amount of trees in the 6 year period covered by the report.

Trees play an important role in our communities and our environments. They reduce flooding, absorb air pollutants and carbon, increase property values, provide habitat for wildlife, and contribute to our physical health and sense of well-being. In addition to the environmental and wildlife impacts, as trees are lost, communities can expect to pay more for the services trees provide for free, such as stormwater management and pollution control.

We also looked at the significant changes in construction, development, increases in roadways and the loss of habitats due to the loss in trees. Unfortunately, in many dynamic ways, impervious surfaces do the opposite of trees; impervious surfaces increase water runoff, trap heat, and concentrate pollution in waterways. In addition, in the six years between 2005 & 2011, the region was covered by 1500 hectares of new impervious surfaces.

The land trust’s findings highlight the need for action to be taken to reduce the rate of tree loss, and to plant new trees where possible. We are greatful for some local governments taking action. In 2010, Saanich adopted an Urban Forest Strategy aimed at achieving a sustainable urban forest with no net loss in tree coverage. The City of Victoria is well into the planning stages of an urban forest strategy, and several other municipalities are looking into creating strategies as well.

There is an important role for private citizens in protecting and restoring tree cover in our region. Most tree loss occurs on private property, and not just on development areas. Caring for existing trees, and planting new trees helps to conserve wildlife habitats, shade our homes in summer and protect them winter-to-winter.

The Mapping was made possible in part with funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC and the Capital Regional District, as well as in-kind resources and expertise from the CRD, District of Saanich, Gye & Associates Urban Forestry Consultants, Judith Cullington & Associates, and the District of Oak Bay. Photo analysis, mapping, data layers and report were prepared by Caslys Consulting.

Quick Links:

Download the Executive Summary (2.5mb pdf)

Download the Full Report (35mb pdf)

Download the Data Layers

The Urban Forest Stewardship Initiative Tree Cover & Impervious Surface Mapping Report Greater Victoria 1986-2005

In 2007/2008 UFSI undertook a project to map changes in tree coverage and impervious surfaces in Greater Victoria. The goal was to start gathering quantitative data about the urban forest in our region, develop an estimate of the green infrastructure benefits provided by our urban trees and develop a baseline dataset that could be used to track future changes to the urban forest.

Using orthophotography and GIS software, our contractor, Caslys Consulting, mapped tree cover and impervious surface in Greater Victoria in 1986 and 2005, and generated maps showing the loss in tree coverage, and where impervious surfaces had increased during the period. Using the 2005 data and CITYgreen software, Caslys generated an estimate for the value of green infrastructure services provided by the urban forest.

There are two versions of the report available. The full report can be downloaded by clicking here (27mb pdf file), or an Executive Summary can be downloaded by clicking here (3 mb .pdf).

Any questions about the Mapping Report, the tree, impervious surfaces and land cover data, or our methodology should be directed to Habitat Acquisition Trust.  You can reach us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 250 995-2428.

The summary report was prepared by: Ann Blyth, Ian Laing and Jason Shaw of Caslys Consulting Ltd.

The Urban Forest Stewardship Initiative is a program of Habitat Acquisition Trust. Support and technical advice was provided by Judith Cullington, Jennifer Eliason, Kate Emmings, Jeremy Gye, Adriane Pollard, Rae Roer, Adam Taylor, and Sairah Tyler.

The Urban Forest Stewardship Initiative and Habitat Acquisition Trust would like to thank the funders who have supported the Urban Forest Stewardship Initiative and this report:

UFSI Sponsors

We would also like to acknowledge the generous support and in-kind contributions from the Capital Regional District (especially Dale Green and Jeremy Bart) and the Province of British Columbia (Malcolm Gray).



Coordinating consultants were Gye and Associates (Jeremy Gye) and Judith Cullington & Associates (Judith Cullington and Sairah Tyler).

The summary report was prepared by: Ann Blyth, Ian Laing and Jason Shaw of Caslys Consulting Ltd.


 About the Urban Forest Stewardship Initiative

The Urban Forest Stewardship Initiative (UFSI) is a partnership of individuals, organizations and governments dedicated to the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of the Capital Region's urban forest. UFSI goals are to: raise awareness of the many significant values of our urban forests to the communities, economy and wildlife of our region; define the issues facing our urban forests; and to promote sustainable development by means of a "design with nature" approach to strategic land-use planning.

The UFSI is led by the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) and is guided by a Steering Committee made up of our partner members and supporters including:

  • Environment Canada
  • Department of National Defence
  • Pacific Forestry Centre
  • BC Ministry of Environment·
  • Capital Regional District
  • City of Victoria
  • District of Saanich
  • District of Oak Bay
  • Township of Esquimalt
  • Urban Development Institute Pacific Region
  • BC Hydro
  • Bartlett Tree Services
  • Judith Cullington & Associates
  • Gye & Associates Urban Forestry Consultants, Ltd.
  • Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT)
  • Wildlife Tree Stewardship Program (WiTS)
  • Tree Canada Foundation
  • UVIC - Restoration of Natural Systems


Donate Now




Subscribe to The Fern, HAT's e-newsletter and stay up to date!


Login Form