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United States of America v. Shawn L. Hale

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


July 27, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHAWN L. HALE,
DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND PROPOSED JUDGMENT

This case came on regularly for trial on July 7, 2011, at the United States District Court in Redding, California, the Honorable Craig M. Kellison, United States Magistrate Judge, presiding; the United States Forest Service appeared by and through Rule 180 Prosecutor, Special Law Enforcement Officer, Chad Krogstad, and the defendant, Shawn L. Hale, appeared by appointed CJA counsel, Adam Ryan.

The defendant is charged in Count I of the complaint filed February 23, 2011 of "removing any timber, tree or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation" in violation of 36 C.F.R. 261.6(h)*fn1 ; Count II of "[c] utting or otherwise damaging any timber, tree, or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation" in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 261.6(a); Count III, of "[d]amaging any natural feature or other property of the United States" in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 261.9(a)*fn2 ; and Count IV, of operating a vehicle off road "in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs the land, wildlife, or vegetative resources" in violation of 36 C.F.R. 261.15(h)*fn3 .

The charges stem from a contact by Shasta-Trinity National Forest law enforcement officers with the defendant on January 14, 2011.

On that day Law Enforcement Officer Carson Harris [Harris] and Law Enforcement Officer Benjamin Leach [Leach] were patrolling Shasta-Trinity National Forest System lands in Trinity County. They came upon a red Toyota pickup truck loaded with fuelwood. Harris made contact with the driver of the vehicle, the defendant, Shawn L. Hale [Hale]. Harris asked if Hale possessed a wood permit and Hale responded that he did not. Hale indicated that his passenger, David Reynolds [Reynolds] did, but when Harris turned and asked Reynolds for the permit, Reynolds indicated that he did not have one in his possession. Harris asked Hale where he had obtained the load of fuelwood, and Hale responded by pointing down the existing forest service road [31N08] and then by turning off the first spur road to the left. Harris observed that the load of wood contained rounds of cedar and madrone. Hale indicated that he had cut the wood and had removed a stump to obtain access to the cutting site. Hale was cited for violating § 261.6(h), removing fuelwood from National Forest systems lands except as authorized. Hale and Reynolds were allowed to leave after surrendering their load of fuelwood

Harris and Leach then continued down the forest service road 31N08 pursuant to the directions provided by Hale. When they came across the first spur road to the left as described by Hale, they discovered fresh vehicle tracks that went from the spur road into the open forest. Harris surmised that the vehicle had utilized tire chains for enhanced traction. Several green fir trees had been freshly cut and placed on the ground to allow for the construction of a makeshift road. A large stump had been cut flush with the ground in order to allow passage of the vehicle. Harris testified that Hale had informed him during his contact that he had cut down a large stump to allow access to the cutting site.

Harris and Leach eventually came across the wood cutting site where they observed portions of a large madrone tree lying on the ground. Harris observed fresh saw dust in the immediate area where fuelwood had been recently removed. Harris also observed a large dead and downed cedar tree which also had been partially cut and removed. Fresh sawdust supported the fact that the cutting activity had been recent.

Defendant Hale did not testify. The court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant Hale entered the area in question with his vehicle; caused resource damage to National Forest Systems land in the construction of the access road to the cutting area, and in the cutting of green trees. The court also finds that the defendant cut and removed fuelwood from this area without a proper permit. These findings are consistent with Hale's admissions that he had no permit; had cut the fuelwood; removed a stump and his specific directions to the cutting site. These admissions, coupled with the observations by Harris of the resource damage at the site described by Hale and the remains of a madrone and cedar tree adequately support a conclusion that Hale was responsible for cutting and gathering the fuelwood found in his possession, and causing the resource damage in question. These findings also support a finding that gaining access to the wood cutting area off the spur road required the operation of his vehicle off an existing road way as alleged in Count IV.

The court finds that the defendant is guilty of "removing any timber, tree or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation" in violation of 36 C.F.R. 261.6(h); "[c]utting or otherwise damaging any timber, tree, or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation" in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 261.6(a); "[d]amaging any natural feature or other property of the United States" in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 261.9(a); and " operating a vehicle off road "in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs the land, wildlife, or vegetative resources" in violation of 36 C.F.R. 261.15(h).

Accordingly, This Court refers the matter to the Probation Department for the Eastern District of California for preparation of a Pre-sentence Report. The matter is placed back on calendar on September 13, 2011, at 11:00 a.m. for receipt of the Pre-sentence Report and sentencing. The defendant is ordered to contact the Probation Department at (530)224-7216 on or before August 5, 2011, to calendar an in person or telephonic interview at the direction of the Probation


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