Green Fatigue

Saguaro Cactus Rustler Sentenced to Eight Months in Prison Should Have Called APS

Two Tucson men were sentenced recently for stealing Saguaro cacti from inside Saguaro National Park, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today. Joseph Tillman, 50, will serve eight months in federal prison. His buddy, Gregory James McKee, 42, was sentenced to six months of home confinement and 100 hours of community service. A park ranger caught the men back in January of 2007 after they had dug up several of the tall, green-skinned plants. Saguaros can be sold for several hundred dollars depending on their size, but the state's official trees are protected under the law. Technically, you need a permit to uproot one from your own property. Tillman's sentence is one of the longest ever for a cactus rustler, Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said in a news release. "Creative landscaping is no excuse to plunder natural treasures from our national parks," Burke stated. Of course, if you're a big public utility, you can legally rip up these "natural treasures" like big weeds.

APS shredded hundreds, if not thousands, of saguaros in the far west Valley earlier this year in order to make way for new power lines. The utility drew heavy fire from environmentalists and other cactus huggers after someone shot a video of the destruction and posted it on YouTube. The video has since been taken off YouTube, but the Arizona Republic still has a copy of it attached to a January article about the flap. As Josef Stalin might have said: Two dead saguaros are a tragedy (punishable by prison time). A million dead saguaros are a statistic.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.