By JIM HALEY
The man with the chain saw and truck who backed into a discontinued roadbed and started slicing through 30-year-old Douglas fir trees may have a reckoning with the law.
Allen McGuire hopes so.
After all, the unidentified man traveled over a private road and entered clearly marked state land before going on a chain-saw blitz.
He might have known that he was stealing from the state, but he may never have jumped to the next conclusion: that he was also taking money from education coffers. In just the 150,000 acres of state land in Snohomish County that McGuire manages, he estimates the total value of thefts reaches an average of $1 million a year.
"You manage and grow these trees for the long term, and to have somebody come in here and just knock them down for such a little thing as firewood…" McGuire said, unable to complete the thought.
A state Department of Natural Resources forester assigned to Snohomish County, McGuire considers the attempted theft a personal and professional affront.
The firewood cutter probably would have gotten away cleanly, except a person who lives in the area got a license number and scared off the would-be thief.
But McGuire was sickened that the trees were cut, some of them bucked into lengths that would fit into the back of a pickup.
The attempted theft occurred in a rural area off Carpenter Road south of Lake Bosworth and east of Lake Stevens. It was in a stand of forest put in trust to support community college education.
The DNR manages hundreds of thousands of acres of forests held in trust for public education. It conducts timber sales, and proceeds go to trust beneficiaries.
Theft of timber is nothing new for McGuire, who has worked for the state for 15 years. Thieves take fir for firewood or mow cedar down for fence posts or roofing shingles.
The damage in this case only came to about $200, probably the equivalent of two or three cords of firewood. But the future value of those trees for merchantable timber would have been much greater, McGuire said.
The difference in this case is somebody stopped the thief in the act. McGuire often sees only sawdust and stumps as evidence.
He’s grateful the resident provided key information about the thief.
That information has been turned over to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, McGuire said, for possible prosecution of third-degree theft and criminal trespass.
Even if the sheriff is unable to make a criminal case, he said it’s likely the state will pursue civil damages.
"It’s a very difficult thing to catch," McGuire said, noting that a lot of thefts happen deep in the woods.
"In my view, you want to pursue folks for this sort of stuff because they are so difficult to catch," he said.
Such thefts affect everyone who likes the great outdoors.
Theft, vandalism and illegal dumping were main reasons why the state has started putting gates across many of its roads, limiting public access. The closure in 1998 of a popular road along the Pilchuck River was controversial, but the state said too many people were abusing the land and the trees.
In the case of the attempted theft near Lake Bosworth, McGuire is anxious to get the cut trees cleaned out. He doesn’t want to give someone else the idea of doing the same thing.
He also wants to send a message he will pursue lawbreakers when possible.
"A lot of people think when you leave the blacktop there’s no rules, no law enforcement," he said. "If we can catch them, we will."
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