The province has jacked up the fines for illegally cutting timber on Crown land.

The fine has increased from $2,000 to $50,000 for individuals — or $250,000 for businesses — for a first offence.

“Government knows that Nova Scotians care a great deal about our forested Crown land, so we are updating regulations with tougher penalties to prevent illegal cutting on Crown land,” Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines said in a Tuesday news release.

The release says individuals could be fined up to $50,000 for a first offence. For each subsequent offence, they could face up to $100,000 in fines, imprisonment for up to a year, or both.

Companies could be fined up to $250,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for each subsequent offence.

Prior to this change, the penalty was a potential fine of $2,000 or imprisonment of up to six months.

In May, an investigation into tree cutting at Long Lake Provincial Park led to charges against three companies.

Dexter Construction Company Ltd., Resourcetec Inc., and Scott and Stewart Forestry Consultants Ltd. were charged with violating the Crown Lands Act.

These charges were related to cutting and damaging about 3.8 hectares of timber in the park in November 2015.

The province says that penalties under this act can include fines, land remediation and the recovery of double the market value for any wood cut.

“The protection of forested Crown land continues to be a priority and the new regulations will support our efforts to enforce unlawful timber removal,” said Kerry Miller, director of enforcement for the Department of Environment.

The government says these changes will put Nova Scotia’s fines on par with other provinces across the country.

But these fines do not apply to illegal timber removal that is less than 25 cubic metres solid.

Consequences for this lesser amount could lead to a summary offence ticket, payment of restitution, or payment to the Crown of double the current stumpage rate.

The government says companies removing timber from forested lands may be involved in things like forestry, land clearing for commercial development or agriculture or road building.