GRANITE FALLS — Timber poachers were caught cutting 18 trees on state forest land off the Mountain Loop Highway, according to new felony charges against an Everett man.
The defendant, 30, is accused of trying to steal $12,000 worth of live Douglas fir and Western hemlock earlier this year east of Granite Falls.
Another man, 40, hasn’t been charged. His excuse? He thought his Discover Pass let him chop down firewood, he reportedly told a state Department of National Resources officer. The pass doesn’t give people the right to break into gated forests and cut down living trees, the officer told him. But he asked to see the man’s pass anyway.
The man didn’t actually have a Discover Pass.
The investigation began last December, when DNR officer Greg Erwin noticed someone had been sneaking onto the land about 8 miles east of Granite Falls. Signs at the gate warn no motorized vehicles are allowed. A wildlife camera was set up to watch the road.
At 9 on a Thursday morning in January, the officer found the gate unlocked. Just over a mile up the road, he spotted a Nissan Pathfinder, hauling a utility trailer full of freshly chopped wood.
Two men with Stihl chain saws were “actively cutting wood as I drove in,” the officer wrote. Erwin asked what they were doing. The men said they arrived at 5 a.m. to collect firewood. One man, 40, asked if they were on state forest land. The officer explained no permits to cut wood had been issued in the region, and they needed to unload the rounds from the trailer. Stumps of felled trees had been covered up with moss.
A forester inspected the site and found 15 Douglas firs had been cut: seven large, four medium and four blowdowns that were still living. One of the biggest had an estimated monetary value of more than $2,400. Three smaller hemlocks had been cut, too. Their worth was about $1,000 each. Other dead trees had been removed from the forest. They weren’t counted.
The firewood was donated to local food banks. The saws were impounded as evidence.
The theft of public wood harms schools, universities, state mental hospitals and other local services that benefit from timber sales, according to DNR.
The older man, who owned the Nissan, has a record of theft, burglary and driving offenses. Almost all of his convictions are over a decade old.
The Everett man has a more recent record of robbery, malicious mischief and misdemeanors related to domestic violence.
Prosecutors charged him last Tuesday with first-degree theft.
Over the summer, he pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine. A Snohomish County judge sentenced him to six months in jail in September. In that case, Marysville police were investigating a potentially stolen Honda Civic that he was standing next to on Beach Avenue. An officer patted him down and found a glass pipe and a baggie of meth. He’d refused to give his name.
“I think I might have a warrant,” he told police, “and I don’t want to spend Christmas in jail again.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.