Lush green trees and shrubs hang over a creek on a sunny day.

Photo Credit: Comox Valley Regional District

Kill Trees, Kill Your Budget

Damage trees in Courtenay and your bank account will feel it

The City of Courtenay isn’t the Lorax, but right now it’s speaking for the trees

Piercy Creek Contractors’ pockets are hurting. The City of Courtney came down hard on them and the property managers of a protected river area near Lambert Drive.

They were fined $107,000 each after cutting down or damaging 107 trees near the watershed. At $1,000 a pop, that’s one expensive chainsaw adventure.

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

Riparian areas are a specific kind of wetland that exists along rivers and streams. They are really sensitive ecosystems. Protecting them means you’re protecting lots of different plant and animal species.

Folks need tree-cutting permits to cut down trees in environmentally sensitive areas, even on private property. That’s because cutting a tree down in one place can cause damage to nearby ecosystems.

According to a study by Washington State University, “one of the most important functions of riparian vegetation is its ability to control erosion and prevent sediment pollution in the stream.” That means trees keep extra silt from clouding the stream.

“Increased sediment and silt in stream water can clog fishes’ gills, bury their eggs, cover their food sources on the stream bottom, and cloud the water, shading out the sun needed for aquatic life.”

In this case, the humans involved are feeling the steep price of their actions. The protections are in place for a reason. And the City of Courtenay plans to keep protecting those watersheds.

Mayor Wells said they’ve been expanding their by-law services over the last year, so anyone thinking of cutting or doing construction without a permit had better be ready to face the music.

“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.”

The contractor and property management company now have 14 days to pay up or dispute the fine.