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TREE THEFTS: Black Walnut Trees Stolen

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Close to $50,000 in losses -- and according to authorities it was all at the hands of one man.

Authorities arrested 49-year-old Randall Walker in September. Walker is facing federal charges for stealing black walnut trees in the beginning of this year. But the effects of that damage, could last for hundreds of years.

“Our restoration plan is we have collected seeds from the site to keep the genetics because these are great genetics,” said Robert Burick, with the US Army Corps of Engineers, “We sent them to a nursery to be propagated, they are going to send us back two year old seedlings, and then we'll go in and plant those seedlings, and have to maintain those seedlings for at least 5 years and then we just have to wait another 140 years until they reach the same age.”

Walker stole from a total of four different sites. The largest tree he cut down was worth $10,000.

But Walker did more than just destroy the black walnut trees he cut down. When they fell they damaged several other species.

The Army Corp of Engineers is now removing the debris and cleaning up the area.

The cost of replacing the trees will come at the expense of other projects the money could be used for, and park rangers say, could end up costing some tax payer money in the end.

Rangers say unfortunately tree thefts like this are pretty common, especially with black walnut trees.

“There might have been a hand full of these trees that existed in this state and they’re all on public lands. So they’re either in state parks, or federal lands,” said Burick.

 Rangers say some of the timber left behind could go to projects in the area, like benches, and signs.

Walker is also charged with stealing scrap metal from one of the sites. He faces maximum fines of $250,000 on each of the five charges. He is scheduled to go to trial January 14th.

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