words :: Ben Osborne.
An honest mistake—but a mistake nonetheless, Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta has been fined $2.1 million dollars for cutting down 38 whitebark pine trees in the Ptarmigan Ridge area of the resort. After a lengthy appeal, the fine was upheld, meaning the resort will be responsible to pay the amount in full.
The resort was charged under the Species At Risk Act as well as the Canada National Parks Act after a crew of six employees cut the trees down while doing work on the resort in 2013. The Whitebark Pine, declared an endangered species by the province of Alberta, is considered a keystone species, providing a vital food source and habitat for surrounding wildlife. The trees also play an important role in slope stabilization.
While the fine might seem excessive, Justice Barbara Romaine, the judge deciding on the punishment, did not see it that way. Instead, she saw it as the resort failing to live up to their obligations, as she wrote that Lake Louise is “A mid-sized corporation operating in a national park that failed to train and inform employees” which, she believes led “to the destruction of a number of individuals of an endangered species whose extinction would have an impact throughout the subalpine ecosystem.”
It might be easy to think that the fine of 55,000 per tree is excessive, but it’s also difficult to measure the impact of taking away such an important species. Unfortunately, this had to happen to one of our favourite resorts, and we hope they can sustain the cost. If nothing else let this be a lesson to all resorts, brands, and companies to take care of what gives so much back to us—mother earth. —ML