Man ordered to prison for trashing forest
Benjamin Yoho, age 41, of Telluride and Ouray, was convicted and sentenced earlier this week following a one-day bench trial before U.S. Magistrate David L. West in Durango of crimes related to the massive littering of an area north of Telluride within the Uncompahgre National Forest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Forest Service and San Miguel County sheriff announced.
From October 2014 through April 2015, Yoho lived and maintained a structure on National Forest land, and also transported large quantities of items from the Telluride “Free Box” to National Forest land, where he littered a large area near the Jud Wiebe Trail. An effort in May 2015 involving 48 volunteers and numerous workers with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control removed approximately 8,500 pounds of debris from the forest by helicopter.
Yoho was charged and convicted of residing on National Forest System Lands, maintaining a structure on National Forest System Lands, and leaving debris on National Forest System Lands. He was sentenced to six months in federal prison to be followed by one year of probation. Conditions of probation include Yoho’s placement at a halfway house upon release from prison and a ban from forest and Bureau of Land Management territory. The court also recommended that the defendant receive mental health treatment while in prison. Restitution will be decided later.
“This was no ordinary case of littering in the national forest — this was full-scale trashing of the public lands, and merited a term of incarceration,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.
“The Forest Service greatly appreciates the cooperative effort with the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office and the local community with this case,” said U.S. Forest Service Special Agent in Charge Laura Mark. “Individuals residing on national forest lands is not only illegal, it poses a significant public safety concern and causes damage to the resources and watersheds, as well as threatening wildlife and in some cases prevents the public from being able to safely recreate in the national forest.”
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Said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters,“I hope this serves as a warning to all that trashing our National Forest is unacceptable behavior. Unfortunately the defendant in this case took advantage of the charitable nature of the Telluride community and made a mockery of it. In the future law enforcement and citizens need to be more vigilant in controlling abuses of the “Free Box” and other giving institutions to make certain people are not using donated items for criminal purposes.”
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