Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Plant Theft in Our National Parks

Here is another case of plant theft from our National Parks. This was taken from the National Park Service Morning Report for December 15, 2009.

Zion NP
Felony Convictions For Illegal Wildflower Seed Harvesting

Ranger Anne Pestolesi came upon several large bags of illegally collected
wildflower seeds along the side of the road in the Kolob Terrace area of
the park last August. Over the next several weeks, Pestolesi and park staff
began an investigation that led to the discovery that several hundred
pounds of Palmer’s penstemon wildflower seeds had been illegally harvested
and removed from the park. Special agent Matt Fisher was brought in to
assist with the investigation. On September 21st, Fisher and Pestolesi
travelled to the remote backcountry area where the illegal harvest had
taken place. They arrested undocumented aliens Cresencio Lucena-Alvarez
and Cresencio Martinez-Guzman, who were illegally camped in the backcountry
and engaged in the illegal removal of the seeds. The total weight of
collected seeds exceeded 900 pounds. The seed collectors intended to sell
their illegal harvest to commercial seed distributers who then frequently
sell their seed to federal agencies pursuing revegetation projects. On
December 7th, Lucena-Alvarez and Martinez-Guzman were convicted on felony
counts of 18 USC 641, theft of government property, and sentenced to 24
months of supervised probation in addition to time served. The two had been
in custody since their September arrests. The court also imposed the
condition that the two shall not illegally reenter the United States.
Charges against additional suspects are pending. The assistance of the NPS
Investigative Services Branch and the Saint George Assistant US Attorney’s
Office was instrumental in the successful prosecution of the case. [Ray
O’Neil, Acting Chief Ranger]

You can learn more about the theft of plants from National Parks in my book, "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks".

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