News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Brinnon Man Sentenced For Tree Theft From Olympic National Forest

Trees Taken Illegally from Hood Canal Ranger District

December 14, 2012

            REID JOHNSTON, 41, of Brinnon, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to one year in prison, and two years of supervised release for damage to government property, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  JOHNSTON pleaded guilty in September to damaging timber in the Olympic National Forest.  The defendant pled guilty to tree thefts that occurred between May 2009 and January 2010.  The timber consisted of fir, cedar and maple trees, and was the property of the United States Forest Service.  Johnston sold some portion of the timber cut to various buyers, on the Olympic Peninsula and elsewhere.  The market value of the trees was more than $70,000.  A restitution hearing in January 2013 will determine the amount JOHNSTON will have to pay for the theft.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan said this is a “very serious offense.  He stole a public resource.”

            According to records in the case, the trees were cut on Forest Service land in the Rocky Brook area of the Olympic National Forest.  At the time of the tree cutting, JOHNSTON’s parents owned property near the theft locations.  In January 2010, law enforcement seized a large Douglas fir log that had been illegally harvested from the forest service property – the trunk was about 7 feet in diameter, and the tree was estimated to have been more than 300 years old.  JOHNSTON is charged in connection with the theft of that tree, and of other fir, cedar and maple trees.  The maple was cut into blocks and sold for the production of musical instruments such as cellos and guitars.  In all, it is estimated that JOHNSTON stole or damaged approximately 100 trees.

            In asking for a 15-month prison sentence prosecutors wrote to the court, “Stands of old growth trees, such as those damaged in this case, entail a unique forest ecosystem, the significance of which reaches far beyond the individual trees damaged.  For example, the stand of trees damaged is designated as Marbled Murrelet Critical Habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Many of the trees cut by the defendant were old growth, including at least one Douglas fir tree estimated to be over 300 years old.  Simply put, the property stolen and damaged in this case will not be replaced for years to come, if ever.”            

            The case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Diggs.

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