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Confess to drop endangered trees: Lake Louise ski resort to be sentenced

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Published Friday, 30 November 2018 4:32 EST

CALGARY – A judge will punish Alberta's world-famous ski resort today for cutting down an endangered tree five years ago.

The Lake Louise resort in Banff National Park pleaded guilty last December to tearing down a tree, including several pine trees, along the ski track in 2013.

The resort will be sentenced in the Calgary courtroom to two charges – one under the Species At Risk Act and the other under the Canadian National Park Act.

A total of 132 trees have been removed, but the actual number of endangered whitebark pine has been debated. The Crown initially said 39 had been removed, but the defense said the amount was much lower.

The maximum fine according to the Species At Risk Act for each destroyed tree is $ 300,000, while the maximum per tree is $ 250,000 under the National Parks Act.

"We will be relieved when it's finally finished," said Dan Markham, director of communications for Lake Louise Ski Resort.

"Lake Louise is eager to move forward and start the remediation plan that we have worked on in collaboration with Parks Canada."

The long-lived five-long whitebark pine comes from the highlands and is threatened by invasive diseases, fires and climate change. This is considered important because it provides food and habitat for animals and helps stabilize the steep subalpine slope.

The tree is in high altitude in western North America in or near trees. It has grown on the continent for 100,000 years and can grow between 500 and 1,000 years.

An agreed fact statement said the crew, consisting of six employees including supervisors, began treatment in the summer of 2013 at Ptarmigan Ridge in a ski resort. The work done is cleaning, repairing and erecting fences, and trimming and removing some trees.

The document said that at the end of September of that year, workers cut down a number of trees, including endangered whitebark pine, without permission.

A statement of fact said that it was not until August 12, 2014, that Park Canada and resort personnel who assessed the location for the hiking trail had just found an endangered tree had been cut down.

DNA analysis confirms that the trees are white pine. The problem was handed over to Park Canada for investigations and allegations placed.

Court documents say that Lake Louise was a cooperative during the investigation and has taken steps to prevent similar incidents. It said the resort had also spent money on initiatives related to the whitebark pine, including extensive mapping of the trees in the area.

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