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Clipping tree tops north of Hibbing.

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Marsha and Silent Bob
Past MnGCA President

Joined: 02 Sep 2003

Posts: 6261

PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2003 9:24 am    Post subject: Clipping tree tops north of Hibbing. Reply with quote

It is possible that most of you have heard this story already but I thought it was midly interesting...

(Because of the Star Tribune's attempts at forcing registration to read their articles, I have copy/pasted it here):

Thieves take tops of 20,000 trees
Curt Brown, Star Tribune

Published November 26, 2003 TREE26

In a case of the Grinch meets Paul Bunyan, the tops of up to 20,000 black spruce trees were stolen this month from an 18-acre tract of state land 40 miles north of Hibbing.

State forestry officials suspect that they will be sold as 4-foot tabletop Christmas trees in New York and Chicago. No arrests have been made, but the investigation is intensifying.

"They're nothing more than thieves, is what they are," said Brian Buria, a conservation officer for the Department of Natural Resources in Bigfork. "This was not a mistake."

Authorities say the tree rustlers probably took more than a week to remove several truckloads of spruce tops. Gone are between 10,000 and 20,000 treetops, valued at up to $80,000.

The thieves spared a 50-foot-wide buffer of trees so anyone driving on Hwy. 65 wouldn't notice anything awry.

The state forest is in the southeastern corner of Koochiching County just south of the map dot known as Rauch.

But on Nov. 18, a logger named Richard Manick noticed a dark-colored Dodge Dakota pickup truck pulling out of the woods hauling a covered white trailer about 8 feet wide and 16 to 20 feet long.

"He thought they might be stranded in there, but they said they weren't having any problems," said Larry Olson, a DNR forestry supervisor from Hibbing. "He figured they were deer hunters and didn't bother getting a license plate. But he was a little suspicious and followed their tracks and found all these spruce trees missing."

The stolen treetops were about 1 inch in diameter and 3 feet to 6 feet tall, clipped or sawed from 16-foot trees and hauled off in bundles. Investigators are checking with Christmas tree wholesalers in the Twin Cities area and St. Cloud.

"These tabletop Christmas trees are shipped all over the country and sold in New York and Chicago," Buria said. "There has got to be a main distributor, so there should be a paper trail."

Buria said bottled water from Buhl was found at the scene, leading investigators to consider possible suspects in that Iron Range town about 40 miles south of the ravaged forest. He said that a woman with a car was also seen in the area, and that the trailer had been in the woods for weeks. At least three people are believed to have been involved. If caught, the thieves could face felony theft and trespassing charges.

"We've had the occasional trespass, but nothing like this in my career," said Olson, who has worked in the DNR's Hibbing office since 1969.

Buria said the closest cabin to the crime scene was occupied by off-duty St. Paul police officers, "who didn't have a clue and figured the activity in the woods was deer hunters setting up a stand."

The trees were part of a state plantation, seeded from the air 10 years ago, according to DNR spokeswoman Jean Goad in Grand Rapids. She said the trees eventually would have been auctioned to commercial foresters and probably used as pulp at paper mills.

The proceeds of those state timber sales go to a school trust fund, a deal cut in Minnesota's early days to earmark timber profits to help finance education. She said what's left of the trees now resembles bushes and has little commercial value.

"Ten years of work down the tubes," Buria said. "I wonder how many other state tree plantations have been hit because these people have gone unchecked for years."

He said he's heard reports of bough pickers earning up to $20,000 a year removing pine branches for wreaths.

"These people bounce around and you can't nail them because they up and move every few months, so it's hard to find them," Buria said.

Anyone with information about the stolen treetops is asked to call the DNR regional enforcement office in Grand Rapids at 218-327-4424.

Curt Brown is at

Crazy world we live in.

Silent Bob
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2003 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't want to start a new thread on this topic....but I wanted to be one of the first to wish everybody a "happy holiday"!!!!!!!!!
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2003 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A 26 year old Chisholm man has been charged with theft, trespass and criminal damage for this. Maximum penaly of 5 years in prison and/or $10,000 fine for the theft charge. the criminal damage is a max of 5 years/$10,000 fine. The trespass is 1 year and/or $3,000. They are still investigating for others involved.

Happy Holidays everyone. Laughing
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