Archeological Theft Results in Conviction

Forest Service flogoJohn Miller
Public Affairs
San Bernardino National Forest

602 South Tippecanoe Avenue

San  Bernardino, CA 92408
(909) 382-2788

US Attorney’s Office – Jerry C. Yang (951) 276-6221


Conviction in Archeological Theft

San Bernardino, Calif., December 14, 2012 –Three residents in the Big Bear valley pleaded guilty in a theft of historical artifacts from the National Forest and were sentenced to a fine of $1,000 each.

US Forest Service law enforcement officers in August discovered that three residents of the Big Bear valley removed a historic feature, an arrastre, from the Metzger Mine in Holcomb Valley, north of the Big Bear valley.  The arrastre was an exhibit on the Gold Fever Trail.   The three local area men were charged with removing, a prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resource, structure, site, artifact, or property from National Forest Service lands.   On December 4, Jerry Yang from the US Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case before the federal magistrate in Riverside, and the trio pleaded guilty and were ordered to each pay a $1,000 fine each.  In addition, they must return the arrastre stones and replace them in their original location.   This task will be completed under the guidance of a Forest Service archaeologist.

“This sends a clear message that it is not okay to loot archaeological sites,” said Dr. Bill Sapp, Forest Archaeologist.  “Once it is gone it is gone forever,” Dr. Sapp added.

During the 1800s, the arrastre provided a crude and inexpensive method for grinding hard rock ore, particularly ore containing free gold. An arrastre consisted of a circular, stone-lined pit where the ore was crushed by means of a drag stone, which was pulled around the bottom of the pit by a horse or mule. Scores of arrastres, some dating from the gold rush of 1860, once dotted the forest landscape, but most have been destroyed or vandalized


You Can Help Protect The Past.

Get involved in preserving the past by volunteering your time and talents.  Our volunteer Site Stewards  help protect the past, by monitoring historic sites and reporting looting and vandalism to forest officials.

Site Stewarts also encourage others to be stewards of the past by your example of treating remains of past cultures with respect, treading lightly, and leaving artifacts in place.  For more information on becoming a site steward, contact Dr. Bill Sapp at (909) 382-2658 or


About the U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest

The San Bernardino National Forest is comprised of three Ranger Districts spanning 676,666 acres in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. From the desert floor to the pristine mountain peaks, the San Bernardino National Forest offers natural environments, spectacular scenery, developed campgrounds and picnic areas, numerous recreational opportunities, and the solitude of quiet wilderness and open space for the over 24 million residents of Southern California and those visiting the area. The forest environment also provides habitat for numerous plants and animals and is crucial in sustaining drinking water, air, and soil quality. Learn more at


John Miller
Public Affairs
San Bernardino National Forest

602 South Tippecanoe Avenue

San  Bernardino, CA 92408
(909) 382-2788

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