ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Grand Rapids man has pleaded guilty to cutting thousands of tree tops from black spruce in the Chippewa National Forest.

Seventy-year-old Joseph Edminster pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to one count of theft of government property.

Prosecutors say he admitted to cutting more than 2,700 tree tops from the forest from October 2008 to October 2014. He then admitted to selling the tree tops to wholesalers for use as Christmas decorations. The wholesalers then sold them to retailers in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

It’s estimated Edminster stole more than $24,000 worth of spruce tops from federal land since 2008.

Black spruce is a North American pine species that’s widespread across Canada and the northern U.S. It’s illegal to cut timber on national forest land unless specifically authorized.

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  1. Greg Laden says:

    Fur trees are not pines. They are furs.

    The image does in fact look like fur trees, but the photograph was taken in Alaska. It is actually a part of Alaska with a global-warming-enhanced forest fire destroying the forest. It is not Minnesota.

    Important article, though. I don’t know that people realize that so much of the xmas foliage comes from poached, illegal sources that damage our trees, both in natural areas and commercial harvesting areas. Topping the trees does negatively affect their growth, and can cause a bifrucated trunk, or other problems.