Chris Balch found not guilty in timber trespass case


Monadnock Ledger-Transcript 

Published: 03-15-2023 11:21 AM

On Monday, March 6, the Milford District Court ruled that former state Rep. Chris Balch was not guilty of four counts of criminal mischief and four counts of timber trespass.

Balch, a Wilton resident, served as a Democratic state representative from 2018 to 2020, representing Antrim, Bennington, Francestown, Greenfield, Greenville, Hancock, Hillsborough, Lyndeborough, Wilton and Windsor.

Balch was charged last May with “spiking” trees in the Russell-Abbott State Forest and the adjacent Heald Tract, which is conservation land owned by the Society for the Protection  of New Hampshire Forests.

Criminal mischief is a misdemeanor, and timber trespass can be a Class B felony if the loss is determined to be greater than $1,000, in which case the charge can be punished by up to seven years in prison and a $2,000 fine.

Spiking trees is a protest tactic, which is meant to damage lumber mill saw equipment when trees are processed after being cut. Balch allegedly left paper signs warning of the spikes.

Balch, an environmental advocate, had previously written a column to the Ledger-Transcript where he argued that cutting trees for commercial sale of timber doesn't benefit the forest or wildlife, despite selective cuttings often being part of management plans for conservation groups.

Balch argued that the state did not have any physical evidence linking him to the spiking of the trees, and presented him as a sole actor, rather than part of a larger action group.

Balch also argued that there had been no injury to people or property. He stated that in his closing argument, he asked the judge to “consider that I am only guilty of being part of the growing effort to protect this plant, and all life on it."

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Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.