Good Samaritan woodcutter Lundy Hill had his day in court before a patient judge Tuesday, where he answered charges that he illegally cut firewood for the disabled.

Hill, 69, a grizzled former Marine and World War II veteran, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Alan Christiansen and admitted he cut down a standing dead tree on the Sierra National Forest near his mountain home in Madera County. But, he explained, the deed was done to aid disabled friends unable to cut their own firewood.Hill, who lives on Social Security, said he was not selling the wood for profit but giving it away.

Besides, Hill argued, the Forest Service policy of letting dead trees stand - to provide habitat for birds - is a dumb one. He had never seen a woodpecker nest in a dead standing tree, Hill said, contending that by the time trees fall and lay on the snow through the winter they rot and become unusable to mountain residents seeking wood.

Hill fumed that leaving the dead trees stand "just makes for a bigger and better forest fire.

But he agreed to a $500 fine with $400 suspended and one year to pay off remaining $100. Judge Christiansen imposed the fine and added two years unsupervised probation.

"Maybe you need to go to the Legislature," Christiansen gently suggested during the hearing. "I think you are in the wrong forum."