Lake Louise ski resort is currently involved in a sentencing hearing after pleading guilty in December to illegally cutting down about 150 trees in 2013, some of which were the endangered species whitebark pine trees.
Lake Louise Ski Area Ltd. pleaded guilty to charges under the Canada National Parks Act and the Species at Risk Act.
- Under the Species at Risk Act, Lake Louise is facing a maximum $300,000 fine for each tree cut down.
- Under the Canada National Parks Act, Lake Louise is facing a maximum fine of $250,000 for each tree cut down.
The sad part is that Lake Louise staff knew these trees were endangered and that it was illegal to cut them.
“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.” – Crown prosecutor Erin Eacott at the beginning of the sentencing hearing
Lake Louise will be sentenced on 2 charges:
- One under the Species At Risk Act
- Another under the Canada National Parks Act
Crown prosecutor Erin Eacott stated that Lake Louise would not have been given permission to cut down these trees even had they sought to gain a permit to do so.
“I anticipate the Crown’s evidence in the sentencing hearing is going to show these main things. First, the number and types of trees that were cut. Second, that Lake Louise Ski Area would not have gotten permits for the work as it was done. The third thing I anticipate we will hear about is the impact of the cutting. The number one impact being that approximately 150 trees were killed.” – Erin Eacott told Calgary provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux
As for the evidence, Park Warden Paul Friesen testified he investigated the site twice in 2014 and found 132 trees were illegally cut down, 38 of which were the endangered whitebark pine.
Whitebark pine is endangered in Canada due it facing many challenges of late including disease, beetle infestation, fire, and climate change.
It’s documented that whitebark pine trees declined in population by 41% in the mid-2000s.
The whitebark pine has been classified as endangered by the IUCN. Severe population decline in whitebark pine communities is attributed to various causes, most significantly infection with white pine blister rust, recent outbreaks of mountain pine beetles (2000–2014), disturbances in wildland fire ecology (including fire suppression), forest succession, and climate change. A study in the mid-2000s showed that whitebark pine had declined by 41 percent in the western Cascades due to two primary threats: blister rust and pine beetles. Whitebark deaths in North Cascades National Parkdoubled from 2006 to 2011. – wikipedia