Spokane County prosecutors have charged a rancher and a logger with stealing 13 old-growth trees.
Logger Lewis R. Kulczyk was charged Wednesday in Spokane County District Court with first-degree theft and first-degree malicious mischief for allegedly cutting trees from land owned by Aaron Lowe.
Kulczyk had been hired to log land owned by Lowe’s neighbor, Alonzo “Lamont” Nibarger, who also is charged with theft and mischief. Those charges were filed Jan. 10 in District Court.
The alleged timber theft occurred in spring 1994 on Lookout Mountain, about 10 miles northwest of downtown Spokane. Steep and rocky, Lowe’s 156 acres are surrounded by Nibarger’s 2,400-acre ranch.
Lowe states in court documents that he had the property line surveyed after noticing trees on his land had been flagged for logging. He also obtained a temporary restraining order before the logging began, he states.
Nibarger contends no logging occurred after the restraining order was issued, said his attorney, Kelly Dougan.
According to court documents, one fir tree and seven ponderosa pines were cut, along with five other trees that could not be identified because the stumps were removed by the logger.
The trees, about 150 years old, were worth $2,674.50, according to a court affidavit. Replacing them and repairing damage done by the logger’s bulldozer will cost $6,318, the affidavit states.
Kulczyk’s telephone number is unlisted, so he could not be reached for comment. Nibarger referred questions to Dougan, who called the charges “groundless, baseless and unwarranted.”
This is not the first time Nibarger and Kulczyk have had legal trouble.
Kulczyk has been convicted of fraud, mail fraud and witness tampering. He was cited nine times in the early 1990s for misdemeanor violations of the Idaho Forest Practices Act.
Nibarger and several business partners were accused of fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the 1970s. He has been cited in the past for logging without a permit and illegally trucking logs across public property.
Nibarger is suing The Spokesman-Review and reporter J. Todd Foster over the initial story about the trees allegedly cut from Lowe’s property.
He contends the story cost his business a bank loan and hurt his reputation.