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Six Month Sentence For Northwest Maple Theft

U.S. Department of Justice
These bigleaf maples in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest were cut down by poachers.

A southwest Washington mill owner has been sentenced to six months in prison for trafficking in bigleaf maple that was later sold to guitar makers. Harold Clause Kupers will also serve six months of home detention and pay nearly $160,000 in restitution.

Kupers pleaded guilty last November to violating the federal Lacey Act designed to protect fish, wildlife, plants and timber. His plea marks the first time prosecutors have obtained a Lacey Act conviction for trafficking in poached Northwest maple wood.

Historically the Lacey Act has been used to prosecute traffickers of more high profile species like ebony wood, black coral and even tigers.

Previously, federal prosecutors obtained guilty pleas from three men accused of cutting the wood that Kupers purchased. Prosecutors said the maple was harvested from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in the dark of night from a location the poachers dubbed “the slaughterhouse.”

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."