Resourcetec Inc. pleads guilty to clear cutting at Long Lake Provincial Park

A Nova Scotia company has pleaded guilty to illegally cutting almost four hectares last year in Long Lake Provincial Park, a case that prompted the provincial government to dramatically ramp up fines for such offences on Crown land.

3.8 hectares of land was cut at the provincial park 1 year ago

The levelled area was dense with softwood and hardwood, primarily black spruce, Halifax naturalist Martin Willison told CBC News in November 2015. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

A Nova Scotia company has pleaded guilty to illegally cutting almost four hectares last year in Long Lake Provincial Park, a case that prompted the provincial government to dramatically ramp up fines for such offences on Crown land.

Last Thursday, Resourcetec Inc. agreed in Halifax provincial court to pay $12,556 in fines, while charges against two other companies were dropped.

The land that was cut in November 2015 sits just behind a strip of trees along Halifax's Old Sambro Road, which runs right through the 2,095-hectare park.

The levelled area was dense with softwood and hardwood, primarily black spruce.

The clearcut occurred after Dexter Construction Company, which owns land adjacent to Long Lake that it uses for infill purposes, hired Resourcetec Inc. to cut down some of the trees on the land it owns. Resourcetec then subcontracted that work to Scott and Stewart Forestry Consultants.

"The allegation essentially was that Resourcetec failed to adequately supervise their subcontractor in the performance of that cut," said Crown attorney Brian Cox.

Having been provided poor direction, Scott and Stewart started cutting the trees and then crossed into the provincial land boundary where it mistakenly cut down 3.8 hectares of Crown land, said Cox.

In May, charges were laid under the Crown Lands Act against the three companies.

Fine breakdown

Resourcetec had to pay three different fines:

  • $2,000 fine for the offence, which is the maximum that was allowed under the Crown Lands Act.
  • $2,470 for remediation to re-plant trees.
  • $8,086 for double stumpage, the term used for the market value of the wood ($4,043), which is then doubled.

"We're getting the maximum fine, the maximum remediation and the maximum stumpage against Resourcetec," said Cox.

He said the reasons why Resourcetec was prosecuted — but charges were dropped against the other two companies — are that the evidence showed Resourcetec was most culpable and the Crown had the strongest evidence against the company.

Stronger penalties now possible

In October, the province announced it beefed up fines for illegally cutting on Crown land. Under the updated regulations, individuals could be fined up to $50,000 for a first offence, while companies could be fined up to $250,000 the first time.

"I think $2,000 to a large company might be a mosquito bite, [but] I think $250,000 would be a significant ouch," said Minister of Natural Resources Lloyd Hines.

He said the increased fines were a direct response to the Long Lake incident. After the clearcut occurred, government staff looked at what its options were and found its penalties were out of line with those in other provinces.

"We were at the bottom end of the penalties," said Hines.

He said the penalties hadn't been updated "in at least a couple of decades."

Even though the stiffer penalties were in place when it came time to sentence, what could be imposed depended on what the regulations called for when the offence happened.

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