Bill Graveland, the Canadian Press
Published Friday, December 21, 2018 3:15 PM EST
CALGARY – A world-renowned ski resort in Alberta is charging a $ 2.1 million fine it received for felled trees threatened five years ago.
The Lake Louise Ski Resort pleaded guilty last December to knocking down a group of trees, including 38 endangered pinnacles, over a ski race in 2013.
The fine, which was imposed last month on charges of the Species Risk Act and the National Parks Act of Canada, amounts to about $ 55,000 per tree.
"The sentence is grossly disproportionate and proven improper given … the actual facts and history of the offense," defense lawyer Alain Hepner wrote in the appeal statement filed on Friday.
The court will be asked to suspend the charges or reduce the penalty to $ 200,000.
A joint statement of fact said that in 2013 a trail team consisting of six staff members, including a supervisor, began cleaning, fencing, and trimming and removing some trees at Ptarmigan Ridge in the ski resort.
The document said that by the end of September of that year, workers had reduced a number of trees, including endangered white bark pines, without permission.
Judge Heather Lamoureux, on Nov. 30, recorded a "cumulative impact" on white pine with "potential risk of undermining species survival in the coming decades."
She noted that the trees were cut in a national park, the resort could not ensure that its staff knew that the white bark pine was in danger and that the trees that were destroyed were all healthy.
The five-needle whitebark pine provides food and habitat for animals, and helps stabilize subalpine steep slopes.
The tree exists at high altitudes in western North America, or near the tree line. They grow on the continent 100,000 years ago and can grow between 500 and 1,000 years old.
But Hepner said the judge did not take into account the remediation efforts the resort took after the trees were felled or the "lack of impact of the loss of 38 whitebark pigs to the population."
With 200 million whitebark pines in Canada, Hepner said the first-try judge erred in finding that the loss of 38 trees affected the species as a whole.
A resort spokesman said measures were taken to ensure that no other pine trees were cut. The staff are most knowledgeable and the 7,000 whitebark pines within the resort area are now marked, the resort said.