On Wednesday, federal authorities charged 22-year-old Nicholas Owens with destroying the High Knob Observation Tower last Halloween. Owens was a volunteer firefighter in the nearby town of Coeburn, Va. The tower site is within the Jefferson National Forest’s Clinch Ranger District in Wise County.

Owens has been charged with arson on federal government land and released on a $10,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on March 13 in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Va. A trial date may be scheduled at that time.

Outdoor enthusiasts and local citizens have been outraged by the destruction of the tower last October. Since then, a grassroots effort has evolved to raise money to rebuild the tower, spearheaded by groups like the Clinch Coalition. A fire watch tower of some sort has existed at the 4,162-foot elevation site since the early 1930s.

More info: www.clinchcoalition.net