Huge Colorado trash pile lands homeless man in prison

A homeless man in Colorado is sentenced to six months in prison after investigators found 8,500 pounds of trash in a national forest. 

(Reuters/U.S. Department of Justice)
An area covered in litter is pictured in an area north of Telluride within the Uncompahgre National Forest in Colorado, in this undated handout photo provided by U.S. Department of Justice. Benjamin Yoho, a 41-year-old Colorado man, has been sentenced to six months in federal prison for leaving 8,500 lbs (3,855 kg) of litter in a scenic National Forest that took dozens of volunteers and a helicopter crew to remove, authorities have said.

A federal magistrate judge sentenced a homeless man to six months in prison earlier this week after investigators say he dumped 8,500 pounds of trash in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Telluride Colo.

Benjamin Yoho, 41, maintained a massive heap of litter in the forest from October 2014 to April 2015, report officials. 

With the help of 48 volunteers, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control airlifted over four tons of debris out of the forest by helicopter in May.

“This was no ordinary case of littering in the National Forest – this was full-scale trashing of the public lands and merited a term of incarceration,” Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement. 

Yoho was convicted and sentenced following a one-day trial in a US District Court in Durango Colo.

“Individuals residing on national forest lands is not only illegal, it poses a significant public safety concern and causes damage to the resources and watersheds, as well as threatening wildlife and in some cases prevents the public from being able to safely recreate in the national forest,” said US Forest Service Special Agent Laura Mark.  

San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters took to social media to show the problem. “People say this is a homeless camp, and I think it kind of gives homeless people or people down on their luck a bad name,” Masters said in a video of the camp he posted to YouTube.  “Its completely inexcusable for anyone or any group of people to live in such a manner – to trash our national forests.”

Colorado residents are not only upset about where Yoho littered – but also what he littered.

Officials say Yoho got the majority of his litter from Telluride’s “Free Box” where residents recycle clothing and household goods.  “Unfortunately, the defendant in this case took advantage of the charitable nature of the Telluride community and made a mockery of it,” said Masters.

After serving his term, Yoho will additionally serve one year of probation in which he will be banned from all National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands. His probation includes placement at a halfway house upon release. The court also recommends that Yoho receive mental health treatment while incarcerated.

“I hope this serves as a warning to all that trashing our National Forest is unacceptable behavior,” said Masters.

Masters’ warning comes at a time of increased homelessness in Colorado.

Last year Urban Peak, a nonprofit that provides food, shelter and education services for homeless young adults in Denver and Colorado Springs, experienced an increase in visitors by 5 percent, with 69 percent of the youth served being new to the facility. Some blame marijuana legalization for the rise in homelessness.

“Of the new kids we’re seeing, the majority are saying they’re here because of the weed. They’re traveling through. It is very unfortunate,” Kendall Rames, deputy director of Urban Peak, told the Denver Post. 

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