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In little more than a year's time, vandals
have destroyed or damaged American Indian pictographs in the Badlands
east of Bend and illegally logged between 10 and 20 old-growth juniper trees. So far, no suspects have been arrested.
BADLANDS AGAIN A CRIME SCENE
Old-growth juniper trees logged
By Rachel Odell
March 19, 2004
Bureau of Land Management Officials are investigating the theft of between 10 and 20 old-growth juniper trees from the Badlands, a High Desert landscape about 15 miles east of Bend.
Agency law enforcement officer Tom Teaford said he discovered the illegal logging on March 2 and began investigating.
He flew over the area in a fixed-wing aircraft Monday. and estimated that about 20 trees were logged.
Along with stealing trees, the thieves illegally cut a barbed wire fence and drove on the sandy desert floor, pressing wide truck: tracks into the land that led directly to the crime scene.
Stealing federal property is considered a class A misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a $100,000 fine or one year in prison, or both, Teaford said. If the theft is valued at more than $1,000, the crime becomes a felony, which is more severely punished and could result in federal prison time for a convicted individual.
The trees were logged about a quarter mile from Highway 20.
As a strong wind whipped fine dirt into spiraling clouds Thursday, the area where the logging occurred was void of human presence, save for a BLM wilderness planner, Berry Phelps, and three conservationists alarmed about the logging,
The truck tracks meandered through the sage until they reached the bases of the logged trees. At one site, the trunk was about three feet in diameter and the tree limbs had been cut and left on the ground.
"This is not just a simple. case of wood cutting," said Bob Speik, a retired mountaineer who frequents the Badlands. "This is the theft of valuable government property, and it is unacceptable."
Phelps, a BLM wilderness specialist, called the timber theft "outrageous," but said that it was not unusual. People poach timber from federal lands for a variety of reasons -for firewood, furniture materials and more, he said.
Though some consider it the "weed of the desert," juniper trees have grown in popularity among furniture makers who use the knotted tree to build mantles and columns in high-end homes, said Scott Stewart, owner of the Redmond-based Log and Lumber Concepts, which supplies juniper
mantles and logs.
Stewart said he gets his juniper trees from private land in Eastern Oregon. A healthy juniper that is not rotting in the middle can sell for $400 to $2,000, he estimated.
Unlike hardwood, which sells for a specific price for board foot, junipers become valuable because of their character, he said.
"They are gorgeous," Stewart said of decorative interior juniper accents.
Despite the trees gaining more economic value, nothing can distract from their natural worth, said Chris Egertson, program manager, for the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
That organization has been fighting for more than 20 years to establish a 37,000 acre wilderness area at the Badlands, which is currently designated a wilderness study area.
That means that agency Officials decided the parcel is appropriate for wilderness designation and must therefore manage the land so it doesn't lose its characteristics.
A formal designation by Congress, wilderness is the term given to lands where people may not drive mechanized machines, including vehicles and
bicycles, and where logging and other extractive industries are typically banned.
BLM wilderness specialist Phelps said that if the Badlands were currently a wilderness area, officials' would have a special management plan that may have given it more protection and made the severity of timber theft within its borders more grave.
However, only Congress can designate wilderness, and. since 1983 - the year the area was designated a Wilderness Study Area - no politician has introduced a Badlands wilderness bill.
Egertson said the illegal logging underscores the need for more protection.
"It is extremely disheartening," he said. A lot of people hold this land in high regard."
Law enforcement officer Teaford said illegal logging is widespread and estimated his agency has apprehended and prosecuted about 100 people in the past five years for stealing wood from public land.
For every person caught; however, it is likely many go unnoticed. Three time law enforcement officers patrol about 1.5 million acres of BLM land in Central Oregon.
Teaford said they rely on data gathered by flying, over the area, by ground patrols and by reports from the public of illegal activity. Anyone with knowledge, of logging on the Badlands, should call Teaford at 416-6700.
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BLM officials investigate central OR tree theft
BEND - Central Oregon authorities are investigating the illegal logging of about 20 old-growth juniper trees from the Badlands, a high desert area overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
Agency law enforcement officer Tom Teaford said he discovered the illegal logging on March 2.
Stealing federal property is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a $100,000 fine or one year in prison, or both, Teaford said.
If the theft is valued at more than $1,000, the crime becomes a felony, which could result in federal prison time.
"This is not just a simple case of wood cutting," said Bob Speik, a retired mountaineer who frequents the Badlands. "This is the theft of valuable government property, and it is unacceptable."
People poach timber from federal lands for a variety of reasons -- for firewood, furniture materials and more, BLM officials said.
A healthy juniper that is not rotting in the middle can sell for $400 to $2,000, said Scott Stewart, owner of the Redmond-based Log and Lumber Concepts, who said the wood is growing in popularity among furniture makers.
Law enforcement officer Teaford said illegal logging is widespread. He estimated his agency has apprehended and prosecuted about 100 people in the past five years for stealing wood from public land.
Three full-time law enforcement officers patrol about 1.5 million acres of BLM land in Central Oregon.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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