DURANGO, Colo. — A southwest Colorado man was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for trashing Uncompahgre National Forest land, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service and the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.
Benjamin Yoho, 41 of Telluride and Ouray, was convicted after a one-day bench trial before U.S. Magistrate David West in Durango on charges of massive littering in an area north of Telluride.
Officials said from October 2014 to April, Yoho lived and had a structure on Forest System land and transported several items from the Telluride “Free Box” where he littered a large area near the Jud Wiebe Trail.
In May, 48 volunteers and numerous crews from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control removed about 8,500 pounds of debris from the forest by helicopter.
Yoho was convicted of residing on National Forest system lands, maintaining a structure in the National Forest and leaving debris in the forest. He will serve one year of probation after his release from prison.
“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,” U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement.
“Individuals residing on National Forest lands is not only illegal, it poses a significant public safety concern and causes damage to the resources and watersheds, as well as threatening wildlife and in some cases prevents the public from being able to safely recreate in the national forest,” U.S. Forest Service special agent in charge Laura Mark said.
Added San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters: “I hope this serves as a warning to all that trashing our National Forest is unacceptable behavior. Unfortunately, the defendant in this case took advantage of the charitable nature of the Telluride community and made a mockery of it.”