Two charged with felony for theft of trees in Iowa

Are no trees safe in the Northland?

If it’s not emerald ash borers destroying ash trees across the Upper Midwest — and beyond — it’s people illegally cutting down and stealing birch trees.

And now walnut trees.

According to a news release by the Iowa DNR, its Natural Resources Law Enforcement Bureau recently charged two men with cutting down and selling walnut trees from a state-owned park.

Bradley Lynn Hagerman, 38, of Pisgah, Iowa, and Eric Robert Freihage, 30, of Council Bluffs, are both charged with one count of the following:

  • Second-degree theft, a class D Felony, Iowa Code 714.2(2).
  • Timber buyer – bond or accounting violation, a serious misdemeanor, Iowa Code 456A.36(5).
  • Timber buyer violation, a serious misdemeanor, Iowa Code 456A.36(3).

Hagerman and Freihage admitted to a DNR conservation officer that they transported and sold nine walnut trees between January 24, 2017 and January 30, 2017.  The live trees were cut down by Freihage and Hagerman at Loess Hills State Forest, a state-owned and DNR-managed park near Pisgah.

Hagerman and Freihage sold the walnut trees to Midwest Walnut in Council Bluffs and received compensation of $4,713; the nine trees have an appraised value of over $7,500, according to the DNR release.

Hagerman and Freihage turned themselves into authorities after the arrest warrants were issued and have since bonded out, the release said.

For the last few months there have been numerous reports of birch trees being poached in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. In a story at in early April, Chief Deputy Mike Richter with the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin said birch trees had been poached in at least 15 to 20 locations in his county alone around that time.

Also according to that story, the logs, limbs and twigs of birch trees are often sold to those looking for a touch of the Northwoods in their homes.

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