Courtney Hammond is a forest ranger in Maine, and in winter, she’s on the lookout for thieves with hefty hauls of tree branches. And she finds a lot of them, she told NPR:

“Over 1,400 pounds in one seizure,” Hammond says. “Many of our seizures run from 400 to 600 to 700 pounds, but at 40 or 45 cents a pound, people can make very good money at it.”

Why would people steal tree branches? Possibly just to stick it to the Christmas ideals of love, kindness, and goodwill towards fellow people, but mostly to sell to wreath makers. Thieves sneak onto land and chop off tree branches — or whole trees — in order to get at the supple tips that wreath makers prize.

Even more frustrating, there is a sustainable way to do this, one above-board tree-tipper told NPR:

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“Some folks will take the entire limb, and that’s what the landowners don’t really like, to strip the tree. Just take the tips, and then you’ll have two grow back for every one,” says Maine tipper Wanda Pinkham. Pinkham breaks about 14 or 15 inches off the limbs.

But she also asks permission before she harvests the tree tips. Apparently that’s too difficult for some people.

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