Landowners in eastern Maine are angered by the illegal stripping of branches from trees by brush rustlers who sell their booty to wreath makers.

"Some people will do anything for a buck," said Leslie Thornton, assistant regional ranger for Maine's Forest Service. Along U.S. Route 1 in Jonesboro, bright yellow signs warn "tippers" - those who gather branch tips from balsam trees - to stay off property unless they have permission.Roadblocks along secondary roads have been set up to check the tippers' harvests, and details patrol back roads to discourage illegal tipping.

About 2 million wreaths a year are produced in eastern Maine, making the area the wreath capital of the nation and pumping an estimated $15 million to $18 million into the local economy.