Two accused of cutting 873 trees for illegal Vermont ski trail
By JOHN CURRAN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
MONTPELIER, Vt. – Two men accused of carving out a 3,000-foot ski trail on state property at Big Jay mountain made their first court appearances yesterday, and a judge ordered them to stay away from the peak while their case is pending.
Paul G. Poulin, 47, of Derby, and Alan B. Ritter, 46, of North Troy, are accused of felony unlawful mischief for allegedly gouging a path near the top of the 3,786-foot mountain, on land owned by the state but shared as part of an easement with the Green Mountain Club and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Each entered not guilty pleas yesterday before Vermont District Court Judge Robert R. Bent in Newport.
If convicted of the charge, they could face five years in jail and $5,000 in fines.
"It's really an environmental crime that's going to take a long time to heal," said Jonathan Wood, commissioner of the state Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
The trail they cut, which ranged in width from 16 feet to 65 feet, felled 873 trees on the eastern slope of the mountain, some of them more than a foot thick at the base, according to an affidavit by Sgt. Bradley S. Mann, a game warden.
A Jay Peak tram operator discovered the damage July 12 and alerted the state Fish and Wildlife Department, and game wardens found a chain saw, a pole saw and a pair of lopping shears near the stumps, according to Mann's affidavit, which was released yesterday. It wasn't clear how long it took for the cutting, or whether they intended to ski the trail.
Nine days later, Poulin and Ritter were seen heading to the site by a member of the Green Mountain Club, who said they weren't dressed for hiking and gave evasive answers about where they were going, the affidavit said.
The Green Mountain Club member, Russ Ford, led wardens to the car the two had arrived in, which had a bank statement with Ritter's name on it visible in the back seat, the affidavit said. That led wardens to the two, who initially didn't admit their actions but confessed to Mann in a chance July 23 meeting at Lake Willoughby.
Replacing the trees will cost about $48,000, not counting labor, according to state foresters.
Pair pleads not guilty to tree cutting near Jay Peak
By CARLA OCCASO
The Caledonian Record
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
NEWPORT -- Two Northeast Kingdom men pleaded not guilty Tuesday to cutting a huge swath of trees on state-owned mountain terrain near Jay Peak despite confessing in writing this summer, according to court documents.
The illegal cutting, estimated to be about 3,000 feet long and up to 65 feet wide, was apparently done to clear a backcountry ski trail along the eastern slope of Big Jay Mountain.
Paul Poulin, 47, of Newport and Alan Ritter, 46, of Jay waived the right to a lawyer in favor of representing themselves -- against the urging of Judge Robert Bent -- at their arraignment in Vermont District Court. The pair faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted.
Poulin and Ritter pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of unlawful mischief for allegedly causing more than $1,000 worth of damage on state-owned land on Big Jay. The mountain, a popular destination for off-piste skiing, is a 3,786-foot peak southwest of Jay Peak in Jay State Forest.
The illegal cut is accessible by a connecting trail from Jay Peak Ski Area, said Russ Ford, a member of the Green Mountain Club and longtime ski patroller at Jay Peak. Ford said he recognized the men as skiers at the resort, but did not know much about them. Neither Poulin nor Ritter had much to say to the media.
"No, this is in process. I can't talk about it," Ritter told a reporter when asked for information. Neither defendant said much about his background, but Ritter did tell the judge he had a Ph.D. He told a reporter later his Ph.D. was in chemistry before refusing to comment further.
The Green Mountain Club --stewards of the Long Trail hiking network -- purchased the land on Big Jay about 15 years ago, Ford said. The club conveyed ownership to the state but retained conservation rights, he said.
An estimated 873 trees were cut, with court documents putting a replacement cost of $47,883.
"We were horrified," Ford said about his reaction when he first saw the cutting. "There has never been a violation of this scale on Vermont mountains."
An affidavit signed by investigating officer Sgt. Bradley Mann, a game warden for Vermont's Department of Fish and Wildlife, details the incident.
The case unfolded July 12 when a tram operator at Jay Peak Ski Area reported apparent illegal tree cutting. Mann said he responded to the area with another warden and saw fresh cutting on the side of the mountain. He took photographs of stumps, brush piles and logs. He also found a red chainsaw, a pole saw and long-handled lopping shears left under a green tarp. The tools were removed a few days later.
On July 21 while investigating the scene, Mann ran into Ford and Rebecca Washburn of the Green Mountain Club, who told Mann they were assessing damages. Later that day, Mann got a call from Ford who claimed he saw two men heading toward the cutting area.
Ford and Mann staked out a car parked in a nearby parking lot for more than an hour until a pickup carrying both men stopped. One man got out and hopped into the car, and both vehicles quickly drove off, evading Mann. Ford said he could identify both men as the men he saw heading to the cutting area, the affidavit states. But Ford said he did not see them actually cutting trees.
Mann tracked down Ritter shortly afterward because Ritter left a bank statement with his name and address face up in his car. Mann said Ritter was unclear about why he was at the mountain but denied cutting trees. Ritter also gave Mann Poulin's address.
Mann spoke with Poulin later that night. Poulin admitted being in the area, but denied cutting trees. Poulin told Mann he was a skier and had done off-trail skiing on Big Jay.
On July 23, court documents say Poulin and Ritter apparently sought out Mann when they drove to Mann's vehicle as he was stationed in another town. They told Mann they wanted to confess and admitted to the illegal cutting. Poulin also led Mann to where he hid the chainsaw and other items from the cutting site, according to the affidavit. Poulin and Ritter were arrested Aug. 3 and released without bail.
At their arraignment Tuesday, Judge Bent again released them without bail on condition they attend every court hearing, inform the court of address changes and stay away from Big Jay.
Ford said he hopes the court bans the pair from all state-owned land.
"Big Jay is a remote, untouched peak that is popular with backcountry skiers," Ford said. "They cut a massive downhill ski trail. It is a swath of destruction. This is a steep, sensitive high-altitude ecosystem."
The men are due in court again Oct. 9.
Two Plead Innocent To Clear Cutting On Big Jay Mountain
By ROBIN SMITH,
The Union Leader
Wednesday September 12, 2007
NEWPORT CITY, VERMONT -- Wardens say two men have admitted that they clear cut a 3,000-foot swath down Big Jay Mountain, cutting nearly $50,000 worth of timber.
Paul Poulin, 41, of Newport City and Alan Ritter, 46, of Jay pleaded innocent to felony unlawful mischief Tuesday morning, according to records in Orleans District Court.
Judge Robert Bent released them on condition they not go to Big Jay Mountain.
If convicted, they each could face a maximum of up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine each.
The men cut hundreds of trees down, according to an affidavit by Warden Sgt. Bradley Mann. The swath cut on Big Jay runs down a cliff face and across a brook and ranges from 16 to 65 feet across, according to reports from state foresters, Mann said.
Poulin told Mann that he had skied off-trail at Jay Peak Resort in the past, Mann said.
Officials had said that the men were apparently trying to build a private ski trail on the mountain.
A tram operator at Jay Peak Resort saw the clear cut in the state forest and called the state, Mann said.
Mann, state forester Tony Smith and Green Mountain Club member Rebecca Washburn went to the summit at the tram top and saw the damage, Mann said. At 11 a.m. on July 15, they witnessed fresh cutting on the east slope, with many stumps 12 inches or greater.
At the site, they found a tarp, a red Jonsered 525 chainsaw, a Craftsman pole and Barnel lopping shears, Mann said. They recorded the GPS coordinates, he said.
On July 21, Green Mountain Club member Russ Ford called Mann at about 6 p.m., saying he saw two men near the gear and the clear cut, and asked where they were going.
Ford met Mann at the parking lot at Big Jay near a vehicle belonging to one of the two men, Mann said. The blue Passat had a bank statement in the back seat belonging to Ritter.
At 8 p.m., a red Nissan drove in next to the Passat, and then both vehicles left the parking lot with Mann following, Mann said.
The driver of the Nissan, Poulin, evaded Mann in North Troy, Mann said.
Mann said he later met with Ritter at his home. Ritter was nervous and in a quavering voice told a story that changed many times, Mann said.
Mann met with Poulin later that day. Poulin admitted hiking in the area of the cut, Mann said.
Early on July 23, the gear was gone from the clear cut. But at 2:50 p.m. that day, Ritter and Poulin saw Mann where he was parked at Lake Willoughby and pulled along side to admit that they clear cut the land on Big Jay, Mann said.
Mann said the two wanted to admit what they did when they were first interviewed, but felt they needed to talk it over. They hiked on Mt. Pisgah above Lake Willoughby and decided to turn themselves in, he said.
"They then saw my vehicle and recognized it. They decided, then, that it must be a sign that to confess was the right thing to do," Mann said.
Poulin showed where the gear was stashed and admitted the chainsaw was his, Mann said.
State forester Jim Horton estimated the value of the trees cut at $47,883, including $11,500 for those trees four to 16 inches in diameter, Mann said.
Neither Poulin nor Ritter has a record.
Poulin is a self-employed contractor, and Ritter is a self-employed financial advisor, records show.
Orleans County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Malgeri did not offer a plea deal at arraignment, records show.
Two Men Accused of Destroying State Property
WNNE-TV Channel 31
White River Junction, Vermont
August 12, 2007
MONTGOMERY, Vt. -- Two men have been charged with felony charges of destroying state property for cutting their own backcountry ski trail path on Big Jay peak in Montgomery, Vt.
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources officials said 47-year-old Paul Poulin and 46-year-old Alan Ritter of North Troy could get jail time if convicted.
The land is owned by the state, shared as part of an easement held by the Green Mountain Club and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Trimming and pruning are standard practices but officials said that in this case it's much more than that. Dozens of trees were cut down and trees on the side of the cut were limbed out, carving out a 60-foot-wide trail that Green Mountain Club stewardship coordinator Rebecca Washburn said it has has left a visible scar on the side of the mountain.
Poulin and Ritter were arrested by Vermont game wardens, are due in court to answer the charges Sept. 11.
Northeast Kingdom men arrested for illegal tree cutting
The Caledonian Record
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
WESTFIELD -- Vermont State Game Wardens have arrested two men for the destruction of state property, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and five years in jail.
Paul G. Poulin, 47, of Derby and Alan B. Ritter, 46, of North Troy were cited into Vermont District Court in Orleans to answer the charges.
In late July, State Game Warden Sgt. Brad Mann and Warden Mark Schichtle - following up on a complaint from members of the Green Mountain Club -located a forest cut about 60 feet wide and 3/4 of a mile long near the top of Big Jay Mountain in the Jay State Forest in Westfield.
Poulin and Ritter are accused of cutting the swath down a steep slope with the intention of using it for back country downhill skiing.
Game Wardens said the state forest contains unique forest habitat above 3,000 feet in elevation, including breeding habitat for the endangered Bicknell's Thrush and slow-growing trees - some that are more than 90-years-old.