News and Press Releases

Allegedly Conspired to Cut Thirty-one Old Growth Cedar Trees from Public Lands

September 25, 2007

Three men were arrested today on an indictment charging them with Conspiracy, Damaging Government Property and Theft of Government Property in connection with their scheme to harvest and sell old growth timber. CRAIG A. JAMES, 46, of Aberdeen, Washington, BRUCE L. BROWN, 46, of Humptulips, Washington and FLOYD D. STUTESMAN, 47, of Hoquiam, Washington, all made their initial appearances this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. According to the indictment, the three were involved in the illegal harvesting of old growth cedar trees in the Olympic National Forest. Some of the trees were more than 600 years old.

According to documents filed in the case, U.S. Forest Service special agents have been investigating timber thefts in the Olympic National Forest for nearly a decade. In February 2006, agents learned of a possible large scale theft in the National Forest. These thefts occurred in the Cook Creek area of the Pacific Ranger District. On February 8, 2006, agents seized 119 blocks of wood, that were of a quality to make musical instruments, at the home of BRUCE BROWN in Humptulips, Washington. Investigators determined that 40 trees were felled at the Cook Creek site, including old growth western red cedar trees and additional red alder and western hemlock trees. The indictment alleges that the wood was taken to mills in Moclips and Elma where the conspirators provided false documentation indicating that the wood had been harvested from private property in Pacific Beach, Washington.

JAMES, BROWN and STUTESMAN all pleaded “not guilty” in court today. The three men are scheduled for a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, on Wednesday, September 26, 2007, at 3:30 PM.

Conspiracy is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Damaging Government Property and Theft of Government Property are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Oesterle.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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