Community stumped over attempted Capitol Christmas Tree stump heist

New Mexico

QUESTA, N.M. (KRQE) – The Forest Service is investigating after someone was caught trying to dig up the stump that belongs to that 60-foot blue spruce now on its journey to the U.S. Capitol. Community members in Red River were quick to stop the person, but there’s concern they may come back to finish the job.

A tree from right here in New Mexico, chosen to be the People’s Tree that will sit in front of the U.S. Capitol this Christmas. Someone who knows how special it is, apparently decided to take what’s left of it for themselves.

“People are always driving up and taking a look and wanting to take pictures of what the stump is, and maybe pictures of the area and notice there was an excavation,” Mayor Mark Gallegos said.

Mark Gallegos is the mayor of Questa. He had the honor of cutting the tree down.

“It’s unfortunate that someone is wanting to make their own benefit out of this as opposed to have whole community-wide benefit from it,” Gallegos said.

He’s not the only one who’s concerned. People started sharing the story on Facebook, getting the attention of the Marshal’s Office in Red River and the Forest Service.

“Some people feel like this stump should stay there. They don’t want it messed with, they think it’s kind of a piece of history for Red River,” Marshal Tim Boren said. “When they found somebody was trying to take it out, they got a little emotional about it.”

Barriers have now been reinstalled in the area around the stump and there are now eyes watching.

“Until we get notification that someone has permission to do that, we are going to keep people away from disturbing it,” Boren said. “If anyone is up there, we will identify them and give their information to the Forest Service.”

Community members say when they confronted the man trying to take the stump, he claimed he had a stump permit. The Forest Service says it has not issued any such permit and there are no plans to.

The town of Red River is talking about putting up some type of marker for the tree, hoping it can become a tourist attraction. The Forest Service would have to approve that.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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