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Lake Louise resort fined $2.1M for chopping endangered trees

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Sunday, December 2, 2018, 3:48 PM - The Lake Louise Ski Resort located in Banff National Park, Alberta has been slapped a hefty $2.1M fine for cutting down 38 endangered whitebark pine trees in 2013 without obtaining the appropriate permits for removal.

The ski resort failed to to notify resort employees that the trees were healthy and had endangered status, and pleaded guilty to removing the trees along a ski run in December 2017. 

As reported by CBC, Judge Heather Lamoureux stated that "there is a cumulative impact on the whitebark pine with potential risk of undermining the survival of the species in the decades to come," and that "the risk of harm was easily foreseeable."

Lake Louise, Canada. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Reports indicate that the resort is likely to appeal the fine, which amounts to approximately $55,000 per tree, as it is nearly double what the resort was anticipating.

Prosecutor Erin Eacott stated that the Crown requested such a substantial fine to send a message about cutting down protected trees and act as a significant deterrent for future tree removal in national parks.

Dan Markham, the director of brand and communications at Lake Louise, said to The Star Calgary that the sentencing suggests that the judge ignored evidence that removing 38 trees would not have a noticeable impact on the overall whitebark pine population in Canada. 

Markham explained that the resort has taken steps to ensure that no other whitepark pine trees are cut down, increased education and awareness provided to employees, and has made the markings of the remaining 7,000 whitebark pines within the resort area more visible. 

This species of trees takes approximately 40 years to reach cone-bearing age, and another 60 to 80 years for the number of cones to reach an amount that has a significant chance at successful reproduction. In 2010 COSEWIC declared the species to be at high risk of extirpation (complete removal) from Canada due to a combination of climate change impacts, a fungus called white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetles, and fire suppression efforts. 

A young whitebark pine. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Parks Canada has promoted initiatives to boost this tree population by collecting whitebark pine cones around Berg Lake so they can be grown into seedlings and eventually replanted into old burn sites in national parks. This species has a significant impact on the well being of the local environment and provides environmental services such as stabilizing soils, preventing soil erosion, and regulating snowmelt runoff. 

The trees have had an extensive role in shaping historic Canadian landscapes, have grown on the North American continent for 100,000 years, and have a lifespan between 500 to 1,000 years. 


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