In late September a nervous-sounding caller warned a secretary in the Fish Lake National Forest office in Richfield, Utah, that the Deep Creek timber sale had been spiked.
The 66-acre sale northwest of Capitol
Reef National Park hadn't generated much controversy, but loggers
who inspected after the phone call said they found many metal
"Spiking" makes trees dangerous to
harvest and run through a sawmill. A chainsaw chain hitting a spike
can break and fly off, injuring the logger. In the mill, spikes are
"When the sawblade hits the spike
it can break teeth off, or even blow the whole sawblade apart,
sending shrapnel flying throughout the mill," says Ralph Goddard,
law enforcement officer for Fish Lake National
On the Deep Creek sale, 7-inch-long
spikes were driven into trees, and then the heads were cut off with
bolt cutters. Goddard says the spikes located so far were driven in
high, apparently to spare loggers, who cut close to the
The spiking is the latest in what has
been a season of vandalism. A cowboy line cabin on 50 Mile Mountain
in Kane County was burned sometime in late July or August, around
the same time five cows were found dead in the Paria River
drainage, a popular hiking area near Kanab.
cows were decomposed so badly Bureau of Land Management
investigators couldn't determine if they had been shot, but rancher
and Garfield County Commissioner Sherrill Ott has no
"I can't prove they were shot," he
admits, "but there's no poison there that would cause them all to
die in one spot like that."
In Kane County,
within the boundaries of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area,
vandals cut through cables which collapsed a corral. And the BLM in
Kanab reports that a water runoff monitoring device used in studies
for the proposed Andalax coal mine was ripped from the ground and
"It's getting so commonplace to have
sabotage it doesn't seem to excite people anymore," Ott
Three years ago five of Ott's cows died
after someone fenced off their watering hole, also in the Paria
drainage. He's given up grazing cows on his allotment
"We've been working to share that land,
but they're not willing to share," says fellow Garfield
Commissioner Louise Liston. "I've stopped trying to understand
their mindset," she says of the vandals.
Forest Service's Goddard says the community was shocked by the tree
spiking because there had only been a dozen letters of protest
submitted to the agency.
The timber sale
purchaser, Thousand Lake Lumber Company, says it will harvest the
trees, taking special care to inspect each tree as it comes in to
the mill. It is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to
the arrest and conviction of the spikers, a figure matched by the
Forest Service. The reward, Goddard says, has generated a few phone
calls but no substantial leads.
also have little to go on in the cases involving cattle, cabin,
corral and water monitoring. Although the Utah Farm Bureau has a
standing reward of up to $1,000 for the arrest and conviction of
vandals who destroy its members' property, that enticement has not
generated any leads either.
Residents of Kane and
Garfield counties are quick to blame environmentalists.
Environmental activist Ken Rait of the Southern Utah Wilderness
Alliance isn't so sure. "The jury's still out on whether it's
environmentalists or someone out to make environmentalists look
bad," Rait says.
"We'd definitely like to catch
them," says Ott. "But it's just such a big area you can't keep your
eyes on it all. It's just becoming a part of life here."
Anyone wishing to report information on the tree
spiking is asked to call Forest Service Special Agent Dave Griffel
Anyone with information on
vandalism to Utah agricultural property can report it to the Utah
Farm Bureau at 801/261-3991.
* Larry Warren
The writer is a
television news reporter in Salt Lake City,