Investigating the recent illegal harvests of timber on state public lands, law enforcement officers with the Department of Natural Resources last Thursday arrested two men in Lewis County who are suspected of cutting down at least two alder trees.
The men have not been charged yet, as investigators are working to learn how much the timber is worth and if the suspects are also connected to the harvest of several other trees in the Lower Chehalis State Forest and the Capitol State Forest.
“I think we’ll release the names then,” DNR spokesman Bob Redling said, noting the men, who are from the Pe Ell area, were not booked into the Lewis County Jail.
Redling said, however, the men have been referred to the Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which is awaiting completion of the investigation before bringing possible felony charges.
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The DNR suspects the men are linked to at least four recent timber thefts on public and private lands.
The timber they were allegedly caught harvesting could be worth thousands of dollars, Redling said.
The Lower Chehalis State Forest is west of Oakville on the south side of U.S. Highway 12 West.
Although alder trees were once disregarded for their value, Redling said their stock has climbed in the past decade as furniture- and cabinet-makers have used the wood increasingly more, pushing its value over $4 a board foot after it is milled.
Redling said the DNR also suspects the men had de-barked the timber in preparation for a sale to a small private mill.
“We think there may be a middle man or two,” he said.
Redling said maple and cedar trees have also been targets of illegal harvesting on dozens of different sites on the Lower Chehalis State Forest and the Capitol State Forest.
“It’s not easy to catch people,” he said.