Logger accused of illegally cutting trees

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BENNINGTON — An Arlington man who was on probation after admitting to cutting down trees without permission during a logging operation in 2015 is facing new charges, this time for a similar offense in Dorset.

Jason P. Morse, 35, gave a false name to landowners to initiate a tree cutting operation, during which he eliminated painted sections of trees that marked property lines and line cut them, Vermont State Police said.

Morse pleaded not guilty in Bennington criminal court on Wednesday to felony counts of taking parcels of realty, identity theft and obstructing justice, and misdemeanor counts of trespass (two counts) and removing surveying monuments.

Judge David A. Howard ordered him held on $20,000 bail, cash or surety.

A lawyer contacted troopers on Jan. 17 to report one of his clients had been approached by a man identifying himself as "Jacob," who asked if he could use his client's property to access an adjacent property for a logging operation. The lawyer told Trooper Benjamin Barton that no permission was granted, but trees on his client's property were still cut. The property on Hillside Drive Extension was under contract to be sold.

Barton wrote that he walked the property and observed "downed trees, brush and ruts left from cutting and the skidder."

The attorney and the woman who intended to buy his client's property both told Barton that the man running the operation was in fact Morse, according to the affidavit. When contacted on Jan. 17, Morse told troopers that he "was only in the area checking on the job."

On Jan. 22, the property owner who initially hired "Jacob" called troopers to report a new incident. That owner reported three fresh cut stumps on the property line where there were large red oak trees that had property markers on them.

The actual Jacob, the man whom Morse implicated in running the operation, met with troopers that day. He told Barton that the job was Morse's, and he had been working for him. He also said that Morse had done nearly all of the work and that he operated a skidder on the property because he thought he had permission to do so.

The man told troopers that Morse instructed him "to tell [police] it was his job or he would go to jail for a long time and that he was on probation," Barton wrote.

Morse did not speak with investigators.

Morse also faces alleged probation violations for a logging offense troopers investigated in 2015.

Morse admitted in June that he cut down nearly five acres of trees on an Arlington property without an owner's permission during a logging operation that crossed property lines. He pleaded guilty to a felony count of unlawful taking of tangible property and received a two-year deferred sentence.

In September, a judge ordered Morse to pay $28,000 to compensate the New Jersey property owner for damages: A $25,000 loss in value and $3,000 to clean up the property.


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