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Four charged with trespassing on federal wildlife refuge

By Stephen Betts | Jan 05, 2020
Photo by: The Metinic Island shore.

Metinic Island — Four men, including an Owls Head resident, are scheduled to appear Friday in federal court on a charge that they trespassed on a national wildlife refuge in 2018.

Clayton Witham, 58, of Owls Head; Benjamin Tucker Thompson, 59, of Freeport; Peter Johnson, 58, of Littleton, Mass.; and Thomas Wengler, 59, of South Dennis, Mass. were each charged Thursday, Jan. 3 in U.S. District Court in Portland on single counts of trespass on federal land.

The four are scheduled to make their initial appearance in the federal courtroom Jan. 10 before Magistrate Judge John Rich III to enter a plea and be sentenced, according to online court records.

The maximum sentence that could be imposed upon conviction is 180 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

According to the U.S. Attorney's version of the case, the four men as well as other friends and family members went on the Metinic Island National Wildlife Refuge on the island located seven miles off St. George Aug. 11, 2018.

The four pitched tents for overnight, mowed the grass, and built a fire, according to the prosecution.

The federal government owns 149 acres on the northern half of the island. The southern half is privately owned and Witham owns land that abuts the refuge.

The public is prohibited from going on the property from April 1 through Aug. 30 to protect the seasonal nesting of seabirds.

All the men, other than Witham, had been issued violation notices for the same offense in August 2012.

The refuge was established in 1993. The federal government said the property is posted about the closure in the area where the man landed on the island.

The island is located in Knox County, is about 2 miles long and less than a half mile wide.

Biological technicians are hired seasonally to work on a tern restoration program, according to Maine Coastal Islands website. The interns count the number of terns, control predators of the terns, conduct food habit and productivity studies, and monitor vegetation response to grazing.

There are sheep on the privately owned half of the island.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Jane Karker | Jan 05, 2020 10:06

I remember when you were allowed to walk that part of the island, long before 1993. One had to be very careful to avoid the terns. Often had to turn back as they would dive on you to drive you away. It was a delicate balance.

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