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Luke Burbank
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Cops in rural areas around Western Washington are dealing with a growing crime wave deep in the woods: thieves cutting down prized old-growth trees and stealing the best wood from them.(AP image)

Thieves increasingly cutting, stealing old-growth trees to fund drug habits

Cops in rural areas around Western Washington are dealing with a growing crime wave deep in the woods: thieves cutting down prized old-growth trees and stealing the best wood from them.

The wood from decades-old Maples is being targeted because it is valued by guitar and violin makers. The problem has gotten so bad the Sheriff's Office in Mason County has now even assigned a deputy to patrol the area and try to prevent tree thefts, KOMO TV reports.

Officials say the biggest offenders are likely drug addicts looking to score some quick cash. Just one tree can net them thousands of dollars.

But those trees took decades to grow, and their loss is costly to landowners.

KIRO Radio listener Scott DeKay tells The Luke Burbank Show some thieves recently poached several trees from his rural Kitsap County property.

DeKay says a neighbor spotted some people bringing some heavy machinery onto his land and taking down some old-growth maples. They claimed to have the property owners permission, and cops called by the neighbors believed the story without trying to verify it with DeKay.

"What the prosecutors office said was they are "reviewing it" and the lady at the office said it would take a month or two," a frustrated DeKay says. He's angry a sheriff's deputy allowed the cutting to continue and the thieves to get away even though he had their license plates.

"That's a lot of money they just came and took and I don't care what they're claiming to do with it," DeKay says.

Just last month, thieves cut down 21 Big Leaf Maple trees on Harstine Island in Mason County in what's being called one of the biggest wood thefts ever on Washington State Parks land, Northwest News Network reported.

A Brinnon man was sentenced in December to one year in prison for stealing or damaging about 100 trees including a 300-year-old Douglas fir from Olympic National Forest.

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com Reporter
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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