3 students cited in theft of rare tree in Wisconsin | KOB 4

3 students cited in theft of rare tree in Wisconsin

This Nov. 12, 2020 photo shows the stump of rare, 25-foot tall Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain pine tree which was cut down and stolen from the UW Arboretum in Madison, Wis.   UW-Madison police said Friday, March 26, 2021,  that three 19-year-old university students stole the tree as a This Nov. 12, 2020 photo shows the stump of rare, 25-foot tall Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain pine tree which was cut down and stolen from the UW Arboretum in Madison, Wis. UW-Madison police said Friday, March 26, 2021, that three 19-year-old university students stole the tree as a "pledge" activity for the Chi Phi fraternity, which hasn't been recognized as an official student organization since 2015. The three admitted to purchasing a chainsaw, renting a U-Haul and stealing the 25-foot Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain pine. ( Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP) |  Photo: AP


Updated: March 26, 2021 01:20 PM
Created: March 26, 2021 09:37 AM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Police who were stumped by the theft of a rare pine tree in November from the University of Wisconsin Arboretum said Friday that they have cracked the case.

UW-Madison police said three 19-year-old university students stole the tree as part of a "pledge" activity for the former Chi Phi fraternity, which hasn't been recognized as an official student organization since 2015.

Police said they acted on a tip, and that the three admitted to purchasing a chainsaw, renting a U-Haul and stealing the 25-foot Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain pine. The stolen tree was about 30 yards (30 meters) from a street that runs through the arboretum, which is a popular spot for walkers, joggers, bicyclists and nature lovers.

The tree was planted in 1988 and its theft drew widespread attention.

After learning how rare the tree was, and that police were investigating, the students destroyed it and disposed of it outside of the city, university police said.

Each of the students was cited for removing the tree, which is punishable by a $200 fine.

University spokeswoman Meredith McGlone declined to comment on the students involved, citing federal privacy laws related to student discipline. She said in general students can face campus disciplinary action in addition to criminal sanctions.


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