Kentucky News – Elm trees target of Knott County strippers

(This is a press release from KY Transportation Cabinet – This is their headline) –

Elm trees stripped of their bark. (Photo submitted)
Elm trees stripped of their bark. (Photo submitted)

KNOTT COUNTY – Wednesday, May 20, 2015 – State highway workers driving KY 550 East in Knott County on Monday, May 18, discovered 18 elm trees on state right of way stripped of their bark.

Why? Knott County Maintenance Superintendent Bobby Smith said that elm tree bark can be sold for its value in pharmaceutical manufacturing. “Like hunting ginseng and other plants and berries, stripping elm bark can be quite profitable if you get enough and know who to sell it to.”

Whoever did this, Smith said, “is going for the easy stuff. The trees are plainly visible, right on the side of the road, almost in a straight line.”

Smith said not only did the stripper – or strippers – trespass on state property, they de-barked the trees using a method that most likely will kill the healthy elms. “This time next year,” Smith said, “these trees are going to be dead. They will fall over onto the shoulder and road and we’ll have to spend four or five thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money to cut them up and haul them off. And that’s just the trees on this stretch of 550. We don’t know how many other places have been hit.”

Smith has photographs of a vehicle whose driver may have information that could help police apprehend the perpetrator of this crime. “The vehicle has Perry County tags. The license number is clearly visible. We have turned over the photographs to the Kentucky State Police so they can investigate the situation.”

Smith said the trees were stripped using a method called “ringing the tree,” where a cut is made around the bottom of the trunk and the bark peeled upward. “There is a safe way to do this that won’t kill the trees, but ringing the tree isn’t it,” he explained. “They may not realize that what they are doing is illegal. First of all, they are on state property, definitely without a permit. We wouldn’t give anyone a permit to de-bark trees, especially in such a way that would kill them.”

Smith urged anyone who has information about this matter to call the Kentucky State Police Post at Hazard to report what they saw. The number is (606) 435-6069.

“This probably isn’t confined to Knott County,” Smith said. “These people may be moving around the region. Post 13 at Hazard covers Knott, Perry, Breathitt, Letcher, and Leslie counties. Post 9 covers Pike, Floyd, Martin, Johnson, and Magoffin counties. Post 9’s number is 606-433-7711. If you see someone hauling tree bark, cutting or peeling the bark off trees, or engaging in what appears to be suspicious behavior around trees along any public roadside, call the nearest KSP Post and report it, please. You could be saving the taxpayers – yourself included – thousands of dollars in unnecessary maintenance work. Plus, you would be saving the region’s elm trees from almost certain destruction.”

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