02/17/2015 02:29 EST | Updated 04/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Illegal tree cutting under investigation in Burnaby, B.C. salmon spawning creek

The City of Burnaby, B.C. is investigating complaints of illegal tree cutting after more than a dozen alder trees were cut down without a permit last week near a salmon spawning creek.

Resident Alicia Schuurmans says she contacted the city when she saw someone had removed the trees from a property that backs onto Buckingham Creek.

"I was quite surprised initially that they could do that," says Schuurmans, who has a background in horticulture. "It just seemed wrong."

Schuurmans says she heard chainsaws at work, but thought nothing of it at the time because of ongoing construction in the neighbourhood.

Trees provided nutrients for salmon

The trees ranged in size and age, all were near Buckingham Creek, one of a number of sensitive waterways in the Central Valley watershed near Deer Lake.

The city says the property owner did not have a permit to cut them down, and would likely not have been given one, because the trees provide shade and nutrients to spawning fish.

"We don't have issues like this very often," said Geoff Gooderham, landscape development technician for the city of Burnaby.

Gooderham says the city knows the identity of the property owner and the company used to cut the trees down.

"I don't think there's any building plan for down there. We wouldn't let anybody build that close to the creek."

Gooderham couldn't say if the owner will face any penalties.