If trees are illegally cut in a woodlot and a fine of a few thousand dollars is handed out, is that enough to deter a landowner from clear-cutting again?
That’s the question several Lambton County politicians are raising after learning the details of the penalty the county leveled at a landowner for removing more trees than permitted during the construction of a Cedar Point wind turbine in 2015.
The high-profile case of clear-cutting – which involved an acre of trees in Lambton Shores – resulted in a fine of $6,000 for the private landowner. That amount was paid in full to the county in early 2016.
While mistakes are bound to happen, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said Wednesday the dollar amount of the penalty was not “punitive.”
“In James Bond, they say it’s a licence to kill. This is a licence to cut.”
Members of county council’s morning committee learned of the penalty on Wednesday after recently requesting an update on the status of the woodlot-clearing investigation associated with the Cedar Point wind farm.
In May 2015, Ontario’s Ministry of Environment was notified following a report of protected trees being cut down for the Cedar Point wind farm in Lambton Shores.
An acre of woodlot was removed by a private landowner, while almost another acre of land at various sites was inappropriately cleared by a contractor working for the Cedar Point wind farm project which at that time jointly owned by Suncor and NextEra.
The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority was ultimately called in because it had issued the original permit for tree removal under its regulations.
Remediation efforts continue on the woodlots that were cleared by the contractor, according to a staff report presented to Wednesday’s committee meeting.
The remediation plan – which was approved and is being overseen by the conservation authority – called for the planting and monitoring of new trees and shrubs on those lands.
City/county Coun. Anne Marie Gillis said she’s concerned that those new plantings could eventually compromise the health of the existing trees in those lands.
“Even though we’re assessing the situation, is there any potential actions we can take if we find out the whole species is wiped out?” she said.
County solicitor David Cribbs said part of the challenge is that there are competing jurisdictions involved in the case.
The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority is overseeing the remediation plan prepared by a consultant for Suncor, while the County of Lambton is responsible for dealing with the private landowner.
The county handed out the maximum penalty it could to the landowner, Cribbs added.
“We have taken the county’s authority as far as we can go,” Cribbs said.
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper, who had called for an update on the case, agreed with Bradley’s description of the penalty.
“I just thought this was a little light,” Napper said. “If it was a farmer, we’d be nailing him to the wall.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding