GRANITE FALLS — A Department of Natural Resources police officer arrested two men earlier this month on suspicion of illegally logging trees on state trust land.
The officer found the men down a gated road off the Mountain Loop Highway. They appeared to be in the process of removing bark from three felled Douglas firs, cutting them into sections and loading them onto a trailer.
“These guys were actually using cables to drag the trees,” said Bob Redling, a DNR spokesman. “It was a sophisticated homemade operation.”
The largest tree measured about 3 feet wide, two others at least 2 feet wide. They were mature, but not old growth. A forester later valued at $7,000 the nearly 20 trees that had been removed or were damaged.
The pair of suspects are under investigation for felony theft, Redling said. The men, who are reportedly from Everett, have not been charged and aren’t being identified. Lesser charges, including harvesting without a permit, also might apply.
DNR officer Greg Ewing first noticed missing trees in the area in early December when he checked on a report about stolen vehicles. He returned a few weeks later to install a hidden camera. He came across the two men with logging equipment Jan. 3 while returning to check on the camera.
The site is about 7 miles from Granite Falls. The wooded area is managed by the state, using timber operations to raise money for local governments.
“The theft of timber off of public land is a serious problem with serious consequences for our communities,” Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said in a statement. “The Department of Natural Resources grows trees to support public school construction and other critical county services, including public safety, libraries, hospitals, and health services.”
Franz praised Ewing’s work on the case and urged the public to report similar suspicious activity.
State officials aren’t sure of the intended use for the illegally logged trees, but as they were cut into small sections, they might have been destined for firewood.
Separately, Snohomish County authorities continue to search for suspects in the case of a 100-year-old cedar cut down in Squire Park near Darrington in early December.
Illegal logging is a perennial problem.
DNR officials have been able to confirm up to $200,000 in stolen timber each year from state trust land, Redling said. That figure is probably low. It doesn’t include related damage to gates, roads and creeks.
Often, timber thieves are out for big-leaf maples. The wood is prized by guitar makers and other craftspeople for its intricate grain patterns. Cedars sometimes get chopped down for roof shingles or fence posts.