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Illegal maple tree tappers stealing liquid gold

1:37 PM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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OLD TOWN, Maine --- The arrival of maple syrup season here in the state has many people out tapping trees to collect sap. Yet officials say now some people are tapping trees they do not own and they are not seeking landowner's permission before doing it.

It is illegal in Maine to tap trees for maple sap if you don't have the permission of a property owner. Right now officials with the Maine Forest Service say they are seeing more and more cases of that.

Forest rangers say they have been investigating cases of illegal tree tapping in parts of the state including Millinocket, Brownville and Beddington. Officials say they have seen some properties in Maine where up to 60 trees were tapped illegally. Officials say that is because it takes a lot of tree sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup.

Rangers say by stealing sap a person can hurt a landowner in two ways. One, thieves are taking the sap which can be used to make maple syrup. That commodity is valued at $65 per gallon this year.

Officials say the maple tree itself is also damaged during tapping and that can hurt its value for landowners looking to sell the wood.

"Others see it {illegal tapping} as something done yearly...and its kind of a nuisance," said forest ranger Thomas Liba, "We see it as a trespass...and a direct impact the quality of wood in Maine."

Forest rangers say the penalties for illegally tapping trees can include stiff fines and even jail time. They say the best way for people to avoid that is to get permission from a landowner before tapping trees they do not own.

Mike DeSumma, WLBZ

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