DNR officers arrest two for stealing valued alder wood from state trust land

Cedar theft
The mess left by wood thieves after chopping up this cedar tree is one example of the several timber thefts from state trust lands that DNR is investigating. Photo: DNR

DNR law enforcement officers arrested two men late last Thursday night (January 13) for illegally cutting down trees on state trust land in Lewis County. The men were caught after DNR officers staked out an area in Lower Chehalis State Forest where several alder trees had been cut down. The men arrested are linked to at least four recent thefts of timber — and perhaps several more — from public and private land in the area.

Officers seized the men’s logging tools and impounded the winch-equipped, one-ton flatbed truck they were driving. After giving statements, the men were released on their own recognizance but DNR plans to seek felony charges against both.

See photos of other timber thefts from state land on DNR’s Flickr site.

DNR foresters are working up the value of the trees that the men had cut down, sawed into lengths and de-barked to prepare for sale. Considering that it is alder wood, the theft may reach thousand of dollars. Among the beneficiaries of the revenue DNR generates from sales of wood and other products from state trust lands are public schools across the state. Local public services in most western Washington counties, including Lewis County, also get some support from state trust lands.

Once considered a waste wood by loggers, alder prices have climbed steadily over the past decade. The hardwood is prized for its use in high-end furniture and cabinetry. It can sell for more than $4 a board foot after it is milled (a board foot equals a one-foot length of a board that is one-foot wide and one-inch thick).

DNR has seen a rising tide of timber thefts as people cut down trees to resell for the specialty wood market. Maple, alder and cedar trees have been especially hard hit. The Pacific Northwest is the only source of commercially grown alder in the nation.

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