FALLON - The investigation of last week's destruction of a 70-foot cottonwood known as the Shoe Tree
has been taken over by the Bureau of Land Management, reports Churchill County Sheriff Ben Trotter.
A sheriff's deputy responded last week to the site 52 miles east of Fallon to take photos and obtain GPS coordinates.
"We confirmed through the Bureau of Land Management that the tree was in their jurisdiction at which time BLM agreed to take over the investigation," Trotter said. "CCSO will assist BLM in this investigation as requested."
Trotter told the Lahontan Valley News that his agency is forwarding its report and information to BLM. He said BLM provided a tip line for people to call if they have information about this incident - 1-800-521-6501.
Mark Struble, public affairs officer for the BLM's Carson City District, confirmed his agency's law enforcement officers are taking over the investigation.
"We'll be carrying the ball," he said.
Since the federal government is involved, Struble said the perpetrators could be in violation of U.S. Code and be charged with malicious mischief. At this time, Struble said he doesn't know if there will be a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprits.
For the time being, Struble said the BLM and Nevada Department of Transpor-
tation have agreed to leave the tree where it is, near the highway about one mile east of the Middlegate Bar and Restaurant.
Middlegate bartender Travis Anderton said he first learned of the incident Friday morning and said the tree was toppled either Thursday night or early Friday morning last week.
Anderton's grandmother, Fredda Stevenson, is planning a memorial at the tree's site on Feb. 13 from 2:30-5:30 p.m.
Stevenson bought the Middlegate Bar and Restaurant 26 years ago. At the memorial, Stevenson said she is planning to dedicate the site where the tree stood for 40 years or more.
A reward has not been established, but at the memorial, Stevenson said she will take up a collection if someone hasn't come forward to turn himself in.
The Shoe Tree site has been a popular stopping point on U.S. Highway 50 where visitors would throw their shoes on the tree. Hundreds of shoes - from sneakers to boots to baby shoes - that once dangled from one of the cottonwood's many limbs are now strewn on the ground beside the tree.