Timber Thief Pleads Guilty to Cutting Down 330-Year-Old Tree

By Rich Christianson | Posted: 01/17/2013 8:56PM


OLYMPIA, WA - A 330-year-old Douglas fir was among 102 trees that a Brinnon, WA, man pleaded guilty to stealing or damaging from the Olympic National Forest and was sentenced to one year in jail.

U.S. Forest Timber Thief According to the U.S. Department of Forestry, Reid Johnston, 41, has been convicted of stealing timber and damaging trees worth more than $250,000 from federal forests in Washington state. The Forest Service began its investigation in January 2008, revealing that Johnston harvested trees from national forests adjacent to property owned by his parents in the Rocky Brook area of Olympic National Forest.

Among the trees Johnston admitted to chopping down was an 8-foot-diameter Douglas fir estimated at 330 years old that Forest Service researchers called "essentially irreplaceable." In addition, Johnston cut down maple trees and processed them into blocks sold for making guitars, cellos and other musical instruments.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Diggs said, “The true value of these resources cannot be measured by board feet or the number of maple blocks or fir logs to be harvested from each tree, The magnitude of the loss can fairly be analogized to losing a national antiquity or cultural heritage resource. … The defendant’s greed robbed our region of one of its most precious resources – trees which will take centuries to return.”


About the Author

Rich Christianson

Rich Christianson is Associate Publisher and Editor at Large of Woodworking Network. During his 25+ years covering the wood products industry, Rich has toured hundreds of manufacturing plants throughout North America, Europe and Asia. His reporting has covered everything from the state of the industry and impact of wood imports to technology and environmental issues. In his current capacity he is responsible for editing the daily Woodworking Network Update newsletter and coordinating events including the annual Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and Canada’s biennial Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo. He can be contacted at rchristianson@woodworkingnetwork.com or follow him on Google+.

Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.

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Dave Koci    
Cleveland, OH  |  January, 21, 2013 at 10:48 AM

As a life long woodworker, I justify to myself that trees are a harvestable crop, but one that should be cherished and protected. Somehow, one year in jail doesn't seem nearly enough restitution for cutting down a 330 year old Doug Fir as well as all the others he poached. Prehaps replanting for the rest of his sorry life instead of cutting might be a bit more appropriate. I never felt so insignificant as I did when hiking through Muir Woods and saw the redwoods for the first time. Truly an incredible experience. It did however, help me to appreciate my work and responsabilities even more.


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