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Montana man sentenced to federal prison for building ATV trail

January 15, 2010 | 10:57 am

 Lava Lake in Gallatin National Forest.

A Livingston, Mont., resident has been sentenced to five months in federal prison, a $2,000 fine and $25,000 in restitution for damage done by his building an illegal ATV route in a national forest.

Francis Leroy McLain, 60, pleaded guilty last month to the misdemeanor charge of damage to government property for trail work done in Gallatin National Forest, located behind his residence, reports the Billings Gazette. McLain originally was indicted on a felony and faced a maximum one year in prison and $100,000 fine, but agreed to admit to a misdemeanor in a plea agreement.

McLain told the judge that he enjoyed hiking in the forest behind his property and thought he'd clear some blown-down trees from a trail and reduce the fire hazard.

Turns out, McLain did more than clear a few displaced trees. U.S. Forest Service officials determined that McLain built a mile-and-a-half-long, six-foot-wide ATV trail. Agency officials estimated the cost to restore the land to prevent erosion and dispose of downed trees that McLain had stacked to be more than $33,000.

His prison term will run concurrently with a four-year federal sentence he is serving for tax evasion in Minnesota.

I'm curious as to if readers think the punishment was too severe, fit the crime, or wasn't harsh enough.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Lava Lake in Gallatin National Forest. Credit: Sam Gardner / USDA Forest Service

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