Mowing – can it be good?

The shore pine in the foreground was somehow surviving a few weeks ago, when this photo was taken, but it has probably been stunted again now.

This shore pine (centre foreground) was somehow surviving in the southeast part of the Garden City Lands just weeks ago, but the mowing has stunted it again now.

Mowing is happening on the Garden City Lands again, and the Coalition has  been receiving messages from citizens who think it should stop. However, the matter is not as simple as it may seem.

Unquestionably, there are some good arguments against mowing. The following are based on advice from Michael Wolfe:

  • Wildlife lose habitat. For instance, endangered barn owls use the lands to hunt, and other native birds require places to perch. Tunnels are compacted and layered with cuttings by the heavy machinery.
  • Invasive plants have their above-ground parts cut, triggering more growth in the root system. The feedback effect will promote thicker growth in 2010.
  • Food supply is lost as berries are forced off the bog plants, and fermentation and rotting will occur in a shorter period of time.
  • Displaced wildlife is stressed as it risks leaving known areas to navigate the roadway to seek refuge in the Department of National Defence lands.
  • Native plants like crabapple trees, shore pines, and Labrador tea get stunted or killed.
  • Other native plants are damaged by the machinery tracks and the covering by cuttings. Examples are Saskatoon berries, bog laurel, bog blueberry, cloudberry, and cranberry.

Despite those shortcomings, the mowing does keep the lands better prepared for agriculture, and that is important. The Garden City Lands are in the Agricultural Reserve so that they can be used for agriculture. Furthermore, many supporters of saving the lands want a large part of the lands to be used for urban agriculture. (Almost everyone would agree to keeping part of the lands as habitat, but even that would remain a reserve that could be used for agriculture if the need became strong enough.)

Mowing also limits the harm done to bog life by invasive species such as birches when they create a canopy over the bog, denying bog plants their needed access to solar energy. And mowing may have a net benefit for the growth of sphagnum moss and thus the enhancement of peatland.

In the pros and cons of mowing the lands, there is common ground. Those who are most knowledgeable about the environmental and agricultural aspects of the Garden City Lands seem to agree that invasive species like birch, grasses, knotweed, and Scotch heather need to be cut back or eliminated. And they agree with the goal of ensuring sunlight for the native bog species.

The problem is in the way that Canada Lands Company cuts back the vegetation. Despite its mandate, the company appears to have little concern for Richmond community values and environmental values, let alone ecological sensitivity. The way the mowing is done reflects that. The local expertise that the company has not drawn upon could be involved in the annual “maintenance,” turning it into something that actually restores the lands. That would bring everyone closer to a win-win result, which is what the Garden City Lands Coalition aims for.



  1. 1
    Laurent Says:

    Not sure what Happened but they seem to have stopped for the time being. Maybe they broke their mower on that shore pine.In the mean time we can enjoy the beautiful sight of this wild land a little longer.

    Should the invasive species removal become a monthly act, to really demonstrate that citizens care and can get involved?

  2. 2
    Tim Hirata Says:


    I really disagree with the mowing of the lands, to think of all the nature and it’s inhabitants you are killing, and for what?. If it’s for financial gain i think that’s really sad and unforgiving

    Thankyou Tim

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