Investigation continues into thefts in Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties
Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are continuing to investigate the theft of sugar maple logs from public state-managed lands in three northern Lower Peninsula counties.
Three males in their mid-20s, one each from – Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties – have been arrested and charged with 1-year misdemeanors or 5-year felonies for removal of forest products. Names are being withheld pending arraignments.
Prosecutors in Cheboygan and Charlevoix counties issued the arrest warrants. Officers expect more charges to be authorized as the investigation moves forward.
Late last year, conservation officers began receiving public complaints about large sugar maple trees being cut on state forestland. Only the thickest part of the trees—the lowest 8-12 feet—was taken most often.
In many cases, there were several valuable saw logs left on the site to rot in the woods. More than 100 logs were allegedly stolen.
“This is a clear case of thieves stealing what belongs to all of Michigan’s citizens,” said Sgt. Greg Drogowski of the Gaylord District office. “An analogy to the wasted timber left in the woods is that of a poacher illegally killing a deer and taking only the back straps (tenderloins).”
Investigators developed several suspects with the help of citizens and members of the timber industry. These suspects allegedly continued to steal veneer maple logs from state land. The logs were sold to various sawmills.
“Multiple sites were discovered and the total value of stolen timber is tens of thousands of dollars, with more sites being discovered,” Drogowski said.
Samples of the logs sold to mills were recovered as evidence. DNR foresters were able to help match these logs ato trees at the cutting sites.
With other evidence, witnesses and statements, officers were able to obtain the felony and misdemeanor arrest warrants.
Now that spring has arrived, more people are getting out into the woods. Conservation officers encourage citizens to report any locations where trees have been cut on state-managed land, within close proximity to trails and roads, most often with only the lower portion of the trees removed.
To report information on this case, contact Lt. James Gorno at 989-732-3541 or call the Report All Poaching hotline at 1-800-292-7800. Those providing tips may remain anonymous. The RAP line offers rewards to tipsters. Amounts vary depending on the incident being investigated and the value of the information provided.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.