Washington state's Department of Natural Resources has seized more than two dozen logs it says were illegally salvaged by a timber crew featured on the reality TV show "Ax Men."
DNR officers served a search warrant Friday on S&S Aqua Logging to retrieve timber the company had pulled from the Hoquiam River without a permit, said Larry Raedel, the agency's chief enforcement officer.
Officers were tipped off after watching the History Channel series, which chronicles the lives of Pacific Northwest timber cutters, including a father-son team from Aberdeen-based S&S Aqua Logging.
"These are valuable materials that belong to the public and this looks like theft, plain and simple," state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said.
An Associated Press call and e-mail to the company and e-mails seeking comment from the History Channel were not immediately returned.
Logs provide a key function for rivers in trapping sediment, harboring insects and other food for fish, and creating pools and riffles where fish can rest, said Greg Hueckel, fish and wildlife habitat programs director.
"They are part of the functioning ecosystem, so removing the log would be like removing part of the bed," he said.
Hueckel said his agency typically grants permits to remove logs in situations where flooding causes log jams. It's unlikely that a permit would be granted for timber harvest, he said.
Jimmy Smith, who owns and operates S&S Aqua Logging, said on the show that the logs were worth about $10,000, according to search warrant records.
When "Ax Men" debuted last year, it became the History Channel's most popular series with more than 2 million weekly viewers. This season began airing March 2 and features two timber crews from Washington, two from Oregon and one from Montana.
In one video posted on the show's Web site, Smith, a fourth-generation logger, is shown floating down a river in a boat, scanning for logs. "We're normal guys that do extraordinary things," he said.