One of two men charged after a mature broadleaf maple tree was illegally cut down on City of Abbotsford land has been sentenced for theft.
Troy Peter pleaded guilty to theft under $5,000 in Abbotsford provincial court on March 29 and got a six-month conditional discharge and six month's probation.
He was ordered to pay the city $500 and not to possess any tools for cutting down trees.
A second man charge, Derek Joe, had a charge of theft stayed against him.
The two men were part of a group of four arrested by the RCMP forest crime unit in the woods around the Old Clayburn area on January 21, 2011.
The officers were in the area investigating a report of illegal tree cutting made to the Ministry Forests in December 2010, said RCMP Const. Cameron Kamiya.
"We were hiking up to investigate the theft sight and we pretty much heard the tree fall," said Kamiya.
"So it does make a sound."
The officers located four men, one who was standing near a chainsaw and a freshly cut mature maple believed to be between 80 to 120 years old.
The illegal harvesting of broadleaf maple trees has escalated dramatically in the Fraser Valley, with poachers looking for wood sought for the manufacture of guitars and musical instruments, said Kamiya.
The value of the stolen wood varies based on the quality, but poachers only harvest a small portion of the tree's lower trunk, he said.
Tree thieves target maples that grow in a certain manner to produce a distorted "curly" wood, which has a flame-like effect when finished.
Abbotsford trees have been the targets of poachers in the past.
Two other men were convicted of theft in 2009 and got a year's probation and $3,500 fine for a broadleaf maple illegally cut down on Vedder Mountain in 2007.
Walter and Colin Phillips of Agassiz were only charged in connection to one tree but police found six felled in the area.
Anyone with information about illegal tree poaching can contact the RCMP Forest Crime Investigation Unit at 604-543-4873.
- with a file from Vancouver Sun