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Ancient Oak Trees Tempt Timber Thieves

Four men could face charges for attempting to cut down and remove trees from a property near the Mark Twain National Forest.
WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Four men could face theft charges for allegedly cutting down and removing more than $5 thousand worth of red and white oak trees from a property bordering the Mark Twain National Forest.

Sgt. Vernon Johnson of the Douglas Co. Sheriff’s Dept. said a ranger from the National Forestry Service saw the men and their heavy machinery logging trees near Noblett Lake on Tuesday.

The ranger blocked the gate with his vehicle and called for assistance from local authorities.

“They responded because it was right on the edge of the US forestry,” Johnson said. “Until they got a GPS reading of the land they didn’t know whether it was on private land or federal property.”

The landowner of the property is Bob Austin, who lives near the Lake of the Ozarks. Austin said he purchased the property nearly 10 years ago to use for hunting and camping.

“It’s a special property. We bought it to relax and enjoy the outdoors,” he said. “The national forest itself, this is a gift we’ve been given.”

But the remote location of the property made it the perfect target for thieves, according to Johnson.

“It is very remote, it’s very good hunting property,” Johnson said. “That makes it very easy to go in and log and we don’t have any idea when it occurs.”

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