(Pexels)

Hefty fines for damaging protected trees are leaving a Vancouver Island contractor and a property management company out hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The City of Courtenay said Tuesday it issued 107 tickets to both parties, totalling a combined $214,000 in fines, for either cutting down or damaging 107 trees, contrary to a Tree Protection and Management Bylaw.

The work happened last December off 20th Street, near Lambert Drive, in a riparian area of the Piercy Creek watershed, protected by a covenant that requires it to remain in a natural state, the city explains.

“These are heavy penalties, but the fines are clearly laid out in our bylaws. Riparian areas are protected by law, and there are serious consequences for those who damage them,” said Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells.

When the work was reported to the city in mid-December, staff ordered the contractor to stop work immediately, and a thorough investigation ensued.

Officials say tree cutting permits are required for properties protected by a covenant or development permit, when removing within environmentally sensitive areas or steep slopes, or for several protected species like Garry oak and Pacific dogwood.

“These investigations take time,” added Wells.

“We’ve added two more team members to bylaw enforcement which has proven to be essential when dealing with complex issues like this one—and in this case, protecting fish and wildlife habitat.”

Due to the tree cutting occurring next to a stream, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is following up on the incident, according to the city.

While the allegations have not yet been proven in court, the city says the recipients have 14 days to pay the fines or dispute the allegations.

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