The Northwest is no stranger to timber theft, but a case that raised a lot of eyebrows was the recent plea-bargain of a Camano Island man who pled guilty to a federal theft charge for cutting down 27 old-growth cedars in an isolated part of Wenatchee National Forest. The trees were between 400 and 700 years old. Unfortunately, the logger faces a sentence that's much shorter than the damage he's done. This was an unusual grove of Eastern Washington cedars (they generally grow in moister climates, but can be found in pockets farther east, I've seen them in Montana's Glacier National Park). The miscreant faces sentencing in February and faces a maximum 10 year sentence and $250,000 fine. The market value of the trees, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, was around $37,000, which is peanuts compared to the rarity of these giants and their value to the public. For all intents and purposes, the trees are irreplaceable. The maximum punishment is a slap on the wrist, and the market value of the trees doesn't come close to reflecting the values of these treasures--it's like valuing a human life by adding up the value of the organs on the transplant market. Timber theft seems to be cutting a swath across the country. The Seattle Times ran an Associated Press story this week called "Stakes grow for Illegal Logging." Apparently, the global rise in demand (and prices) for hardwoods like cherry, white oak and walnut is fueling thefts, and mature stands are scarcer than they used to be. Timber robbers prey on absentee owners, checking public property records to find isolated lots. This is happening all over – New England, Texas, Wisconsin, New York, Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi. The hardwood forests of Appalachia are a tempting target. Unfortunately, timber theft is often considered a civil, not a criminal, offense, and penalties have not kept pace, making it a fairly low-risk enterprise. In addition to higher demand, the P-I reports that many current timber thefts being reported in Western Washington forests are connected to meth addicts. The old-growth cedar logger is lucky Mossback isn't dictator because I'd impose a creative (and rather Biblical sentence), such as forcing the man and all of his descendants to work on conservation projects for the next, say, 700 years. Feel free to send me your own suggestions for fitting punishments. I would also investigate the mills that took these trees: How many people walk in with 27 old growth cedars for sale? Wasn't this even the least bit suspicious? How many such trees are cut every year? Dictator Mossback would make the cutting of such ancient trees on private or public land by anyone illegal. Period.