Lake Louise Ski Resort was fined $2.1 million in a Calgary courtroom after the resort pleaded guilty to taking down a number of endangered trees without a permit five years ago.
The resort pleaded guilty last December to cutting down a stand of trees, including whitebark pine, along a run in 2013. The two charges were laid under the Species At Risk Act and Canada National Parks Act.
“We’ll be relieved when it’s finally over,” said Dan Markham, communications director for Lake Louise Ski Resort. “Lake Louise is eager to move forward and initiate the remediation plan we’ve been working on in co-operation with Parks Canada.”
According to an agreed statement of facts, a trail crew started maintenance on Ptarmigan Ridge at the resort in the summer of 2013 and the work included cleaning up the area, fixing and putting up fences and trimming and removing some trees.
The document states that workers cut down a number of trees, including endangered whitebark pine, without a permit.
132 trees were removed in total and the Crown said 39 of those were whitebark pine but the defence argued that number was much lower.
The statement of facts showed that the removal of the endangered trees was not noticed until August 2014 when Parks Canada and resort workers were assessing the area for a new hiking trail.
DNA analysis confirmed that the trees were whitebark pine and the charges were laid in 2015 after an investigation by Parks Canada.
The court document says the resort was cooperative with the investigation and has taken steps to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Prosecutions under the Species At Risk Act are rare and there has only been about a dozen convictions across Canada since the act came into existence about a decade ago.
The maximum fine under the Species At Risk Act for each tree destroyed is $300,000, while the maximum per tree is $250,000 under the National Parks Act.
The court ordered the resort to pay a total monetary penalty of $2.1 million and just over $1.5 million of that will go into the Environmental Damages Fund and prioritized for mountain forest ecosystems.
The court also ordered the resort to undertake a few projects to identify the trees in key locations and educate visitors about whitebark pine.
Parks Canada released a statement following the decision and said in part:
Canada’s network of protected areas protect and restore healthy, resilient ecosystems and contribute to the recovery of species at risk. Parks Canada is a recognized leader in conservation and takes the protection of the resources under its care, and the enforcement of legislation very seriously.
Parks Canada is committed to maintaining and restoring ecological integrity in national parks, while providing Canadians with opportunities to discover and enjoy these treasured places. Parks Canada works closely and in collaboration with local businesses operators to support environmental stewardship. Together, we ensure Banff National Park, including resident species at risk, remains protected through rigorous land use planning, environmental assessment, and detailed operating conditions in leases, permits, and licenses. Parks Canada, businesses operating in the national parks, and national park residents and visitors have a shared responsibility to protect species at risk.
Lake Louise has until November 30th 2019 to pay the fine.