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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

First 'Lacey Act' Conviction For Maple Theft In Northwest

U.S. Department of Justice
Mill owner Harold Kupers pleaded guilty to poaching bigleaf maples in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

For the first time, prosecutors have obtained a federal Lacey Act conviction for trafficking in poached Northwest maple wood.

A mill owner from southwest Washington pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to violating the law designed to protect fish, wildlife, plants and timber. Harold Kupers was charged back in August with purchasing maple wood poached from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and then selling it as music instrument wood to guitar makers like PRS.

Kupers and his company J&L Tonewoods have now pleaded guilty to a single count each of violating the federal Lacey Act.

“What he’s pleading guilty to is being involved in the trade of maple without proper permitting,” Kuper’s attorney Casey Arbenz said. “There’s no doubt that the federal government is concerned about maple being taken from national forests”

Arbenz noted his client did not plead guilty to being in receipt of stolen maple wood. Still, federal prosecutors can now claim the first successful conviction for maple wood theft under the Lacey Act. Historically, that law has been used to prosecute traffickers of more high profile species like ebony wood, black coral and even tigers.

Kupers faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he’s sentenced in February.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."