Benjamin Yoho, age 41, currently of Telluride and Ouray, was convicted and sentenced last month in Durango federal court for massive littering in an area north of Telluride within the Uncompahgre National Forest.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service, and the San Miguel County Sheriff, from October, 2014, through April, 2015, Yoho not only lived and maintained a structure on National Forest lands, but also transported large quantities of items from the Telluride “Free Box” to his camp near the Jud Wiebe Trail.
A volunteer effort was mobilized in May with the help of 48 volunteers and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, to remove approximately 8500 pounds of debris from the forest by helicopter.
Yoho was charged and convicted of Residing on National Forest System Lands, Maintaining a Structure on National Forest System Lands, and Leaving Debris on National Forest System Lands.
He was sentenced to six months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to be followed by one year of probation.
Conditions of probation include Yoho’s placement at a halfway house upon release from prison and a ban from Forest and BLM lands. Additionally, the Court recommended that the defendant receive mental health treatment while in prison. The issue of restitution will be decided at a later date.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.
Added Laura Mark, special agent in charge for the forest service, “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.”
San Miguel Sheriff Bill Masters said by trashing the forest Yoho “took advantage of the charitable nature of the Telluride community and made a mockery of it.”
The sheriff added that in the future law enforcement and citizens need to be more vigilant in controlling abuses of the Free Box and other giving institutions to make certain people are not using donated items for criminal purposes.
“I hope this serves as a warning to all that trashing our national forest is unacceptable behavior,” he said.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service with support from the San Miguel County Sheriff. Yoho was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dondi Osborne of the U.S. Attorney’s Durango Branch Office.