Former state rep facing charges of ‘spiking’ of trees to prevent logging

  • Chris Balch. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Chris Balch has spent many years building and restoring boats, even teaching a workshop at Lawrence Academy, where he taught many years ago. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Chris Balch, a state rep for Hillsborough District 38, has spent most of his life in the outdoors and that means snowshoeing through miles of trails from the back yard of his Wilton home. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Chris Balch, a state rep for Hillsborough District 38, has spent most of his life in the outdoors and that means snowshoeing through miles of trails from the back yard of his Wilton home. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Chris Balch, a state rep for Hillsborough District 38, has spent most of his life in the outdoors and that means snowshoeing through miles of trails from the back yard of his Wilton home. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

Monitor staff
Published: 5/26/2022 4:25:52 PM

A former state representative has been charged with putting spikes in trees on state-owned land in an attempt to prevent logging.

Chris Balch of Wilton, who was a Democratic state representative from 2018 to 2020 representing a 10-town district in the Monadnock Region, has been charged by the state Division of Forests and Lands with two counts of criminal mischief and two counts of timber trespass from an incident earlier this year.

Balch was arraigned in Milford district court and has said in Facebook posts that he will plead not guilty. A case management hearing has been scheduled for June 6.

Balch allegedly drove metal spikes through trees in two forests in Wilton: the Russell-Abbott State Forest and the adjacent Heald Tract, owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

The spikes are meant to damage lumber mill saw equipment after trees are cut down. They can also pose a danger to workers in mills and to loggers cutting trees. Balch allegedly left paper signs warning about the spikes.

“Spiking” trees has long been a strategy used by anti-logging activists in the Western U.S., but this appears to be the first time it has been part of a court case in New Hampshire, said Jack Savage, president of the Forest Society.

Balch has a business in Wilton making custom-built sailboats, canoes and kayaks from wood. He was known as an environmental advocate in the legislature and recently wrote a My Turn piece in the Monitor in which he argued that virtually no logging should ever be done in New Hampshire to preserve the health of forests and the wildlife in them.

The state, Forest Society and many other organizations that own woodlands do periodic logging operations for a variety of reasons.

Criminal mischief is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines. In New Hampshire, timber trespass, which says in part “no person shall recklessly cut, fell, destroy, injure (or) carry away” woodland material without the landowner’s permission, can be a Class B felony if the loss is determined to be greater than $1,000.  A Class B felony can be punished by up to seven years in prison and a $2,000 fine.


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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