Lake Louise ski resort charged with cutting endangered trees to face trial

A skier enjoys fresh powder at the Lake Louise Ski Resort on November 18, 2015. Global News

A company accused of cutting down endangered trees at a popular ski resort in Banff National Park has lost its bid to avoid a trial on a charge laid under the federal Species at Risk Act.

Lake Louise Ski Area Ltd. was charged in 2015 after national park wardens noticed that 140 mature trees, including endangered whitebark pine, had been cleared from the land near the Ptarmigan Chutes ski run.

Lake Louise pleaded not guilty in 2016 and went to court to seek a judicial stay of the trial, arguing that the case has taken too long to resolve.

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Court proceedings have so far included disclosure of expert opinions about the cut trees and DNA tests requested by the company’s lawyers.

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The DNA tests came back positive for whitebark pine.

Provincial court Judge Heather Anne Lamoureux has denied the company’s application for a stay.

“The court rules that the defence had sufficient (evidence) disclosure as of December 2015, including an expert opinion report on the species of the trees removed,” Lamoureux said in a written ruling. “It is not reasonable to argue that DNA analysis was required.

The trial is set to begin in Calgary on Dec. 4. Her ruling notes that the company’s lawyers did not agree with holding the trial last April.

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Lake Louise Ski Area Ltd. is also charged with destroying or removing vegetation without a permit contrary to the Canada National Parks Act.

Ottawa included whitebark pine trees in the Species at Risk Act after experts determined it was at high risk of local extinction due to mountain pine beetle, climate change, wildfires and a fungus called blister rust.

The resort’s website says Lake Louise is one of the largest ski areas in North America and offers legendary skiing on world-class terrain.

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The company leases the area from the federal government.

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