Bighorn National Forest officials are investigating damage to 115 trees in the Powder River Ranger District near Buffalo.
Brian Boden is the Natural Resource Specialist for the service. He said he and other forest service employees noticed directional arrows carved into trees on a routine snowmobile patrol. He said the markings seemed to be created to mark a trail or hunting spot.
Though they do not have any leads on who may have destroyed the trees, he said, it's illegal to carve or damage trees in the federally protected area. Mark Booth is the District Ranger for Buffalo. He said the only way to prevent this from happening again is to remind the public that the trees are part of protected lands. That means hikers, hunters and those who use the area for recreation should leave the area as they found it.
With the fine at $100 for the first tree and $50 for each additional tree, Booth said, these arrows could end up costing someone around $5,800 in fines.
Cutting into a tree makes it more susceptible to disease and rot, he said, thereby shortening the tree’s life. Another problem, he said, is that marking one's path by carving trees can confuse future hikers and hunters and make it possible for them to get lost or go off trail. As soon as the snow melts, Boden said a team will go in to try to determine where the arrows lead.
Anyone who has information about the damaged trees can contact Booth at the Powder River Ranger District at 307-684-7806.