A world-renowned Alberta ski resort has been fined just over $2 million for cutting down endangered trees five years ago.
Judge Heather Lamoureux has given Lake Louise resort in Banff National Park one year to pay the fine.
The resort pleaded guilty last December to taking down a stand of trees, including 38 whitebark pine, along a ski run in 2013.
Lamoureux called Lake Louise reckless and fined the resort $55,000 per tree.
An agreed statement of facts said that in 2013 a trail crew, consisting of six employees including a supervisor, began cleaning up, doing fencework and trimming and removing some trees on Ptarmigan Ridge at the ski resort.
The document said that in late September of that year, the workers cut down a number of trees, including endangered whitebark pine, without a permit.
The facts statement said it wasn’t until Aug. 12, 2014, that Parks Canada and resort personnel who were assessing the site for a new hiking trail discovered the endangered trees had been cut.
DNA analysis confirmed the trees were whitebark pine. The matter was turned over to Parks Canada for an investigation and charges were laid.
The court document said Lake Louise was co-operative during the investigation and has taken steps to prevent similar occurrences. It says the resort has also spent money on initiatives related to the whitebark pine, including extensive mapping of that tree in the area.
The long-lived, five-needle whitebark pine is considered crucial because it provides food and habitat for animals, as well as helps stabilize steep subalpine slopes.
The tree exists at high elevations in western North America at or close to the treeline. It has been growing on the continent for 100,000 years and can grow to be between 500 and 1,000 years old.
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