Those who use Long Lake Provincial Park in Harrietsfield, N.S., want those responsible for mowing down about 20 acres of forest prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“I'm horrified,” said retired environmental studies professor Martin Willison. “It's really disgraceful. This kind of thing should not happen. It's an assault on our park system as a whole.”

The provincial government says permission was not given to remove a single tree from the park.

“That is against the law,” said Zach Churchill, acting Minister of Natural Resources. “I can say at this point that there was an alleged trespass and an illegal cut.”

The government is investigating, but says it seems a company started cutting on private land, and encroached into the park.

“I'm outraged, to be quite frank with you,” said Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire. “We've been doing some really great things as a community around Long Lake Provincial Park.”

“It doesn't look like an accident,” said Willison. “It's very hard to clearcut 20 acres and say, ‘Oops, that was a mistake.’”

The government insists it is taking the matter seriously. The company that did the damage could be fined, charged, and held responsible for restoring the land.

But that could be easier said than done.

“Even if they did tree planting, we're talking 50 years before we would gain back what was lost here,” said Clarence Steven of Halifax Field Naturalists.

A supervisor for land development says the land beside the park is owned by North American Real Estate.

“It got out of control somehow,” said Glen McLean, supervisor of North American Real Estate Land Development. “We weren't aware of where they were cutting or what.”

McLean says his company hired another company to do some work. That company hired a contractor to cut trees.

Wilson is looking for immediate legal action to be taken.

“Protected areas are about preserving nature for future generations, about keeping habitat for all of the world's species, and we don't have a lot of them.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.