A homeless man from Telluride, Colorado was found guilty of dumping tons of trash in a national forest, and sentenced to 6 months in prison.
Benjamin Yoho, 41, was convicted by U.S. Magistrate David West, after a one-day bench trial in Durango. He will be serving 6 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, during which he will also receive mental health treatment.
Afterwards, he will be on probation for 12 months, with the obligation not to cross any estate administered by the Bureau of Land Management. It will be established at a later date what restitution the man owes for the extensive damage he has caused.
According to officials, the main charge was that Yoho had deliberately discarded around 8,500 pounds of litter in an area near the Jud Wiebe Trail, in the Uncompahgre National Forest.
As the Department of Justice has revealed, between October 2014 and April 2015, Yoho’s residence was a temporary structure built on National Forest System Lands, north of Telluride, San Miguel County. It was there that the man brought tons of items from a “Free Box”, which is used by local residents to recycle clothes and household items.
As County Sheriff Bill Masters has shown, the vagrant took advantage of the generosity of the locals, and instead of using the products responsibly, he accumulated them into piles of trash. For a period of 7 months, the culprit engaged in this littering, which turned a protected area into a landfill site.
“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”, declared U.S. Attorney John Walsh.
The debris was eventually cleared in May, thanks to the efforts of 48 volunteers and a large number of staff from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control . The litter was transported by helicopter by those who participated in this mission.
It is hoped that following this court verdict, more awareness will be raised regarding the regulations that help protect public lands. Establishing residence in national forests is not only illegal, but also greatly detrimental to the environment and its wildlife.
These federal lands are managed by the United States Forest Service, and are protected thanks to a comprehensive set of conservation measures.
Nevertheless, environmentalists still insist there should be more restrictions on logging, excessive grazing, mining and road-building. In addition, they call for more involvement in the protection of threatened and endangered species, by preserving their natural habitat.
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