Jail sentence in timber theft

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courtesy photo

 A Washington state man has Ben sentenced to 30 days in jail for chopping down a big leaf maple on federal land near Olympic National Park. Authorities said 63-year-old Michael Welches and others sold the wood to an instrument maker.

According to the Department of Justice:

On November 11, 2013, a neighbor residing near the Elwha restoration project lands notified the Park Service that he had heard chainsaws in the middle of the night. The neighbor said he saw people in the woods wearing headlamps. The neighbor reported similar activity a few nights later. The ranger investigated in daylight and found a felled big leaf maple. He asked the neighbor to call him directly if he heard or saw additional activity. The next night, at 1:00 AM the neighbor alerted the ranger. Law enforcement responded and arrested WELCHES and two codefendants as they were cutting and loading the felled maple. A receipt indicated the men had sold the wood to a Quilcene, Washington music wood supplier. Wood retrieved from that supplier matched the wood from the felled maple. 

The value of the timber as music wood is estimated to be $8,766.
Welches has a prior conviction from 2004 for cutting in a state timber trust, according to DOJ.

A second defendant, Matthew Hutto, has pleaded guilty is awaiting sentencing, and a third man, Richard Welches, is being sought by law enforcement. 


Timber theft case in Iowa

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The remains of a 40-inch diameter black walnut tree estimated to be at least 140 years-old. An Iowa resident cut the tree down, but due to the large size could only remove one log, estimated at $1,400 market value. Photo courtesy of Hill / USACE.

If there is one thing Iowa doesn’t have a lot of, it’s forests. Most of the state’s old growth was mowed down two hundred years ago to make room for corn and soybeans.

So it wasn’t too hard to spot when one resident chopped down 32 black walnut trees. The rub, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, was that the trees were growing on federal land administered by the Army Corp of Engineers.

With current lumber prices, the hacking would have netted thousands of dollars on the open market. Instead, it landed the rogue lumberjack a 15-month stay with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and a $56,225 restitution order.

“When something like this occurs, we have no choice but to do everything within our authority to prevent similar activity. Unfortunately, many of the things we value in nature take decades or centuries to evolve but can be taken away in a matter of only a few careless hours,” Col. Mark Deschenes, commander of the Rock Island District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said in a prepared statement.

Authorities said the man pleaded guilty to removing trees from Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, which is under the control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, as well as from other property under the control of the Corps at the downtown Riverside area in Des Moines, the Sycamore area in Polk County and the Lake Red Rock area in Marion County. He was sentenced last week

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, State of Iowa Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Bureau, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.