Christmas tree seller illegally cut trees from test forestry plantation, province says

A man has been charged with illegally cutting down spruce trees from a Manitoba government plantation, then selling them as Christmas trees at a business in Steinbach.

Conservation officers launched an investigation after getting a tip from the public. On Dec. 13, they saw a man hauling trees out of the plantation on Crown land north of Marchand.

The plantation is a valuable test area that grows high-quality trees for use in forestry renewal projects across southern Manitoba, said a news release from Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development.

The man admitted he was selling the trees at his business in Steinbach, about 20 kilometres northwest of Marchand.

Officers seized 30 black spruce trees the man had taken from the plantation, along with a chainsaw. Another 18 trees that had been cut but not yet removed from the plantation were later seized as well.

In all, the man is accused of cutting 167 trees. The majority of them were six to nine metres (20 to 30 feet) tall, but just a shorter section of the top had been removed from each of them, the news release says.

The trees have since been donated to a Ukrainian church in Winnipeg to help newcomers enjoy their first holiday season in Canada.

The man is charged under the Forest Act of Manitoba and, if convicted, faces a fine of up to $50,000, up to six months in jail or both. In addition, there will be a requirement to pay provincial forestry dues.

Marchand is about 60 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.

People are allowed to cut down trees on Crown land, in designated areas, but must first get a permit for $9.75 plus GST.

Permit holders can then cut a coniferous tree up to three metres in height, with a limit of one tree per household.

Christmas tree permits can be purchased on the Manitoba e-licensing portal or by calling 1-877-880-1203.

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