College Place man guilty of entering Mill Creek watershed

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PENDLETON -- A College Place man has been convicted of illegally entering the Mill Creek watershed.

Jason Peterson, 28, was found guilty by U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan after a bench trial Nov. 17, according to a news release by the city of Walla Walla.

Sullivan reportedly heard evidence that Peterson entered the watershed unlawfully to camp and hunt for elk horns. She found him guilty of trespassing in the watershed, which is a closed area, and fined him $600 for the misdemeanor crime.

The Mill Creek watershed, the origin for the city of Walla Walla's drinking water, is a protected area closed under a 1918 agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 36-square-mile area is in the Umatilla National Forest and includes land in Oregon and Washington.

For health and safety reasons, people are prohibited from entering the watershed except by special permit. Signs are posted around the border of the watershed to warn people the area is closed.

Evidence at Peterson's trial showed he entered the watershed in Oregon, then hiked through it into Washington, according to the news release.

The evidence also reportedly demonstrated that Peterson entered near clearly visible signs stating the watershed is a closed area.

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