$5K reward to find a regional park's tree killers

Girdling is an illegal act and one that more often than not leads to the death of a tree.

A reward is being offered to find the vandals who have killed 20 trees at the Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan.

The Dakota County Sheriff announced on Friday that $5,000 will be made available for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the damage caused to the black cherry trees earlier this month.

The trees, located in various spots around the park, were "girdled" – that's when a ring is gouged around the tree, stripping away the bark.

According to the Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail on Facebook, girdling is an "illegal act" and one that more often than not leads to the death of the tree.

Here's a look at where the targeted trees are located. Many of them are in the mountain bike area.

The bike trail's initial post about the vandalism prompted a furious response from many Facebook commenters, to the point that the organization had to request for people to calm down as things were "getting a little out of hand."

"We originally posted this in hopes to help gather some intel, not start a flame war," it said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that girdling is a way of killing trees without felling them, and can be employed to kill unwanted trees or enhance wildlife habitats. It can also be used to prevent a tree encroaching onto power lines.

The 2,000 acre park in Eagan gets around 500,000 visitors each year, according to its website. Dakota County is also in the process of restoring a further 1,100 acres of prairie and forest within the park, and also planting more than 3,000 new trees and shrubs.

Anyone with information about the tree girdling should call the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office via 911, or by emailing sheriff@co.dakota.mn.us.

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