Essex Man Convicted of Cutting Over 1,000 Trees in National Forest

Charles McAlpine pleaded guilty in January to cutting and removing timber from public lands

An Essex man will pay over $16,000 in restitution and fines and serve one year of probation after cutting over 1,000 trees on national forestlands adjacent to his property.

Charles McAlpine pleaded guilty in January to cutting and removing timber from public lands and aiding and abetting the same. Last month a federal judge sentenced him to one year of probation, $11,420 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service and a $5,000 fine.

According to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, a Forest Service employee in November 2009 noticed an area near Giefer Creek in the Hungry Horse Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest where a large amount of trees were removed. The area was directly connected to McAlpine’s property.

An officer responded to the area and noticed roughly 200 trees had been removed and roads had been created from the forest to McAlpine’s property. The officer identified a skidder on McAlpine’s property. Nearly one year later, the officer returned to the area and noticed evidence of fresh cutting and skidder tracks.

According to court records, McAlpine admitted to cutting trees on the national forest. He said the trees were beetle infested and the Forest Service was dragging its feet on a fuel reduction project. McAlpine said he used the trees for firewood but also admitted to selling some of the timber.

The Forest Service investigated the area and determined that 1,034 trees had been cut on the section of public land in recent years. Many of the stumps were covered with dirt in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence of the cutting, according to court records.

The agency valued the entire amount of cut trees at $36,968.

“The Flathead National Forest takes timber theft and associated resource damage on public lands seriously. We aggressively investigate reports of timber theft,” Flathead National Forest Acting Supervisor Sharon LaBrecque said in a news release.