Timber Trespass and Prevention
Timber Trespasses are a major problem throughout the nation. They can occur in many different forms, and are often hard to prosecute due to the complexity of the crime, weak or varying state laws, and possible inexperience on the part of law enforcement / prosecutors / attorneys. While some Timber Trespasses are accidental as a result of honest loggers inadvertently crossing poorly marked property lines and harvesting on adjacent property, many timber trespasses are well planned out activities.
Some Forms of Timber Trespass:
- "Contractual theft" can occur when a buyer arranges to purchase timber at unreasonably low prices.
- Honest loggers may inadvertently cross property lines while harvesting on adjacent land and illegally cut trees.
- Rogue loggers may trespass and harvest trees without a landowner's knowledge or permission.
- Harvested trees may be misreported and diverted for the benefit of someone other than the landowner.
How to Discourage Timber Trespass:
- Identify and visibly mark property lines.
- Inspect or hire a professional to inspect your timberland regularly.
- Maintain good relations with your neighbors and assist with keeping a watch of each others properties. Request that your neighbors inform you if they plan on conducting a harvest operation on their property, so that you can find out who is doing the cutting and ensure they do not cross over the property line.
- Hire a reputable "Consulting Forester" to assist with the planning and harvesting of timber on your property. A "Consulting Forester" will be responsible for preparing a detailed contract, designating the trees and area to be harvested, ensure a good price is paid for the timber, as well as oversee the harvest operation to ensure the job is done properly.
- Landowners insistent on representing themselves in the oversight of a timber sale should be sure to:
- Check references of potential timber buyers.
- Demand a written contract that specifies who is entering into the contract (including names and verified addresses), what will be harvested, at what price the timber will be harvested, any other details that are part of the agreement. The contract should specify how and when the landowner will be paid, and whether the sale is a "lump sum" or "pay-as-cut".
- Track pay-as-cut sales carefully, monitoring the logging operation and reconciling each load that leaves the property with each load that is received by the mill.
- Maintain good records for each timber sale.
- If a timber trespass is discovered on your property, be sure to report it to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. Although the actual responsible agency may vary for each state, the county sheriff or state police are likely a good start. The trespass area will likely need to be examined and incident recorded if there is to be any hope of pursuing a criminal prosecution. It is also likely that you will need to contact a "Consulting Forester" to assist with the dispute as well.