A Manitoba man is facing a significant fine after he was caught stealing trees from a crown land plantation north of Marchand.

On December 13, Conservation officers observed a suspect bringing trees out of the plantation, which is a valuable test area that grows high-quality trees for planting in forestry renewal projects across southern Manitoba.

"This area is set aside for seed plantation for the forestry people," says Earl Simmons, the Chief Conservation Officer. "It allows them to harvest seeds so then the seeds can be used to grow seedlings of trees for that area."

Following an investigation that included surveillance equipment, officers seized 30 black spruce trees and a chainsaw. They also discovered another 18 trees that had been cut but not yet removed from the plantation. In all, a total of 167 trees had been cut, and the majority of these trees were between 20 and 30 feet tall, with only the tops removed.

The suspect indicated that he was selling the trees at his business in Steinbach.

He has been charged under the Forest Act of Manitoba and, if convicted, could face significant fines or jail time. In addition, there will be a requirement to pay provincial forestry dues.

The plantation’s missing and damaged trees are a significant loss that negatively impacts long-term sustainable forest management projects in southern Manitoba.

"The estimated value that I was told was approximately $30,000 worth of damage to the forestry program for that."

Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development reminds Manitobans to purchase a tree permit to cut trees on Crown land, in designated areas. After purchasing a permit for $9.75 + GST, Manitobans can cut a coniferous tree up to three metres high, with a limit of one tree per household. More information is available here: https://gov.mb.ca/nrnd/forest/forestry/crown_timber/index.html.

Christmas tree permits can be purchased on the Manitoba e-licensing portal at www.manitobaelicensing.ca/licensing.page or by calling 1-877-880-1203.

Simmons also encourages people to report any instances that they suspect someone is illegally harvesting land resources. This is an effort to protect our planet, local wildlife and ecosystems.

Anyone with information about illegal resource harvesting activity is asked to call the Turn in Poachers (TIP) line at 1-800-782-0076. Callers do not need to provide names and all information is confidential.

A Happy Christmas Ending

After much discussion of what to do with the trees that were illegally cut down, it was decided that they would be donated to the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral in Winnipeg.

The trees were then distributed to Ukrainian immigrant families who are experiencing their first Christmas in Manitoba.

"The folks at the church and the individuals that were given the trees were very appreciative of that, so that was a good news ending to this story."

In cheer for this happy ending, Simmons wishes everyone a Merry Christmas.