Law enforcement officials from Olympic National Forest report a sharp rise in illegal firewood and timber theft this year.
"Timber theft has increased throughout the forest, but we're not sure what's causing the spike in this activity," said Hood Canal District Ranger Dean Yoshina.
"It could be the state of our economy or the value of firewood or both. Either way, it's happening at an alarming rate."
Along with fallen trees from recent storms, offenders are harvesting green timber from stands well off the road, then winching it to their vehicles. An estimated 20 cords were removed from the Lords Lake area recently.
"I have been working here for more than 20 years and this is as bad as I can remember," engine captain Donald Svetich said.
Wood cutting without a valid permit is illegal.
Increased law enforcement patrols are planned, and officers will strictly enforce this regulation.
The maximum penalty for wood theft includes a $5,000 fine, six months in jail and seizure of the offender's vehicle and chain saw.
Felony convictions, applied if the wood is valued at more than $1,000, carry increased fines and additional jail time.
Firewood permits can be purchased on a year-round basis at the Quilcene and Quinault district offices, as well as the supervisor's office in Olympia. The cost is $5 per cord, with a minimum purchase of $20 for four cords. A complete list of regulations is provided with the permit.
With a permit, one can gather fallen trees that are lying on the road or in roadside ditches. Permit holders cannot collect wood from above the cut slope.
Fallen trees can be cut into smaller pieces (24 inches or less) for transport, but no standing trees can be cut down. Cedar cutting is not allowed. The use of cats, skidders or other equipment is prohibited.
For more information, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/olympic.
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