A Flanders man used a shovel to dig up hundreds of white pine saplings from property on Old Northwest Road in East Hampton late last month.
On the afternoon of Jan. 25, and again the next morning, Cesar A. Sarpes-Santos, 46, dug up more than $1,000 worth of trees from land owned by the Peconic Land Trust, East Hampton Town police reported. The land is within the Wilson’s Grove Preserve, a 45-acre white pine and oak forest that is part of the Paumanok Path trail system.
The trees were between 2 and 5 feet tall, according to the Land Trust, which said, in a statement issued on Tuesday, that police alerted them to “suspicious activity” at about 9 a.m. on Jan. 26. “Given the extent of the theft, and the poor example it represents, the Trust has decided to press charges. We have referred the case to our legal counsel and our stewardship staff is in the process of inventorying the damage. Trust staff estimates that over 350 saplings were taken.”
“The Trust takes seriously encroachments and infringements on land that it preserves and protects,” the statement continued. “It is our responsibility and obligation to ensure that the conservation values of protected land are upheld.”
“The 45-acre Wilson’s Grove Preserve, which sits within the Paumanok Path trail system‚ was donated to the Peconic Land Trust in 2008 by Marillyn Wilson. The preserve includes an extraordinary forest system of White Pine and Oak trees.”
Mr. Sarpes-Santos was charged on the afternoon of Jan. 26 with fourth-degree grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, felonies, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. The trees and his truck were impounded.
According to police, he admitted being on the property, which is posted with Peconic Land Trust signs stating there is “access by permission only.” He also reportedly admitted taking the trees. Police issued him an appearance ticket, and he is due in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Wednesday.