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Lake Louise Awaits Millions in Fines for Tree Cutting

Lake Louise Ski Resort has plead guilty to cutting down an undetermined amount of the Whitebark pine—a tree currently protected by the Species at Risk Act. Phil Wiffen Flickr Photo.

Lake Louise is currently in some hot water for illegally cutting down 150 trees in 2013. According to the Calgary Sun, the ski area has pleaded guilty to charges they’re currently facing from both the Canada National Parks Act and the Species at Risk Act.

The thing is, these trees aren’t your everyday saplings. They’re whitebark pine—an endangered species. Whitebark is a vital resource in the Canadian wilderness, providing food and habitat for animals. In recent years the trees have come under a variety of threats, including disease, fire, and climate change.

If you happen to chop one down, be prepared to face fines up to $300,000 from the Species at Risk Act. Additionally, there is a $250,000 fine from the National Park Act. Mind you, that’s just for one tree. It’s estimated that Lake Louise cut down 38 as part of its annual summer maintenance. We’ll let you do the math on that one.

Right now the resort will be represented in a hearing to determine the exact amount of trees felled.

"The evidence will show that the managers of Lake Louise ski area were aware before the offence that whitebark pine was a species of concern and an endangered species that could not be harmed," stated Crown prosecutor Erin Eacott at the start of the hearing.

"I also anticipate that the evidence will show that the work that was done on Ptarmigan Ridge was on a to-do list for Lake Louise ski area's trail crew for several months before the cutting occurred, and there was lack of oversight by Lake Louise ski area's management."

The site was first investigated in September 2014 by Park warden Paul Friesenwho is now supervises Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay national parks. He found a swath of stumps about 300 meters long.

Through DNA analysis and visual diagnosis, his team has been able to confirm multiple species that were cut down at the site.

"There was whitebark pine, which was of course the most concerning to us, but in addition to that there were larch trees, fir trees. There was spruce trees cut down," he explained to CBC.

While the exact number of trees has yet to be determined, the lack of oversight will certainly cost the resort a hefty charge.

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