Fraternity members from the California State University's Chico campus are facing federal criminal charges after they allegedly cut down dozens of trees in Lassen National Forest during a camping trip as part of a pledge-initiation ritual, CBS San Francisco reports. Per the Los Angeles Times, at least 32 trees were cut down at the Deer Creek Trailhead campground in late April, and members of Chico State's Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, including President Evan Jossey, now face counts of vandalism, possessing firearms, and degrading US territory. The US Forest Service tells CBS the fraternity left the campsite in disarray, and it has publicized surveillance pics showing college-age students buying tools that may have been used to cut the trees down. The trees that were felled included Douglas firs, white firs, and cedars, a Lassen rep tells the Sacramento Bee.
Per the Times, camper Jon Elam told federal authorities he ran into 80 or so of the frat's members at the campground, including Jossey and three others who identified themselves as part of a Chico State fraternity that would be taking part in an initiation ceremony; Elam says he heard gunfire and trees being felled that night. He told the feds he saw the downed trees the next day and left, returning almost a week later to find a huge mess at the campsite. Elam filed a police report on April 28. In a Facebook post, the fraternity denies the charges and says it has filed its own police report, apparently against Elam. Pi Kappa Alpha's national organization says the Chico chapter has been suspended until the probe is done; a university rep says the frat has been suspended from campus. (The parents of a deceased frat pledge say he was treated like "roadkill.")