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Backus man convicted of spiking trees

A 52-year-old Backus man has been convicted of felony criminal damage to property and gross misdemeanor damage to timber for his role in damaging more than 500 trees with 6-inch spikes.

Stephen Thomas Olson was found guilty by a Cass County jury following a three-day trial in Walker.

According to a press release from the Cass County Attorney's Office:

The Cass County Land Department discovered the tree damage in November 2009, noting that more than 500 red pines had been spiked with 6-inch shank pole barn nails.

A handmade sign was found at the gate to the county property that stated, "II in each tree!" with a smiley face.

An investigation by the Cass County Sheriff's Office led to Olson's arrest for planning and executing the tree spiking.

The jury heard evidence that Olson was angry that red pines on county property were going to be logged. He learned on Oct. 31 that loggers were to start work the next day. He became angry and made statements that he would spike the trees to prevent the logging. Olson and two others pounded nails into the trees throughout the next week.

The jury deliberated for about three hours.

Due to the damage, there was a risk of danger to logging equipment and loggers, so Cass County sold the entire stand of spike trees (165 cords). The high bidder was $21.52 per cord. The county originally was going to harvest 14.6 cords with a winning bid of $77.50 per cord.

Olson is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 18.