$2.1M fine upheld against Lake Louise, Alta. ski resort
CALGARY -- A judge has upheld a decision against a ski resort in Lake Louise, Alta. that admitted to chopping down more than 150 trees, many of which were identified as endangered.
The Lake Louise Ski Area Ltd. was charged under the Canada National Parks Act after it was found to be responsible for the destruction of 169 trees, including 58 whitebark pine, in Aug. and Sept. 2013.
Nearly 30 more trees, growing on property leased from Parks Canada in Banff National Park, were also damaged.
The court heard that Parks Canada officials had no knowledge of the trees being removed until nearly a year after the cutting was performed.
"The illegal actions of employees of the ski area in cutting the trees was not discovered until August 12, 2014, when Parks Canada staff and the ski area personnel conducted a site visit to the ski area for the purpose of assessing a new hiking trail."
At that time, it was determined between 58 to 66 healthy whitebark pine and 110 healthy spruce, fir, lodgepole pine and larch trees were cut down. An additional 29 spruce, fir, lodgepole pine and larch trees had several of their limbs removed.
The business was cooperative with the investigation and eventually pleaded guilty to cutting down the trees, which it said was done to add a new ski run to the property.
Following the guilty plea, the resort was handed a fine of approximately $2.1 million, a levy that it appealed, claiming the amount was too high.
Among the grounds the ski area claimed the trial judge erred on were:
- Multiplying the fine by "stems" of the whitebark pines rather than the number of "plants" or trees
- Citing the failure of a proper permit as an aggravating factor
- Over-emphasizing the lack of training provided to the ski area's employees as an aggravating factor
- Imposing a demonstrably unfit sentence
The ski area submitted that $350,000 was a much more reasonable fine.
Following the appeal, dated July 22, Justice B.E. Romaine conceded that the punishments against the ski resort were "more than a slap on the wrist" but the incidents were not isolated incidents or a simple mistake.
"(This was) a case where, despite a long history of operations, a recent information session about the endangered species in question and full awareness of permitting requirements and prohibitions, a mid-sized corporation operating in a national park failed to train and inform employees, leading to the destruction of a number of individuals of an endangered species whose extinction would have impact throughout the sub-alpine ecosystem," Justice Romaine wrote.
As a result, she said the sentences were fit in the circumstances, the fines would be upheld and the appeal dismissed.