Preventing timber theft
This article explains
how forest owners can reduce the likelihood of timber theft in
their own, and neighboring, woodlots.
Timber theft is more
common than many forest owners realize. When large sections of
forestland go unchecked for months or years, valuable trees can
be removed either unintentionally or by criminal act. Though New
York has new laws increasing timber theft fines, prevention of
this problem is still important. From timber theft, landowners
suffer nearly permanent economic loss. Forests suffer as large,
irreplaceable, and genetically superior trees (most often removed)
are eliminated from the ecological community. The more timber
theft is prevented, the less of a problem it will be.
practices to prevent timber theft
Mark forest boundaries.
boundaries in forests are obscure, giving timber thieves a good
excuse for removing trees through unauthorized logging. Your forest
boundaries should be clearly marked with a combination of ownership
signs, paint marks, posted signs, flagging, and fencing, where
appropriate. Posted signs should be placed conspicuously, without
creating a visual nuisance. New York's posting law requires a
sign every 660 feet, with your name and address marked on the
sign. If forest property boundaries are made clear, the crime
of timber theft is both more pronounced and easier to prosecute.
Obtain current survey
or deed description.
Surveys and deed
documents will include a legal description of property boundaries.
Use them to locate benchmarks, such as iron pins and roads. Sometimes,
the deed or survey will use natural features, such as a woodland
edge or ravine to express property boundaries. If these documents
are readily available, suspected timber theft can be investigated
Walk the boundaries
in the forest, looking for potential timber theft targets.
Trees removed illegally are usually within a few hundred feet
of the property boundary - close enough to make removal easy and
under a convenient cloud of uncertainty. The trees most susceptible
to theft are straight, clean, and of a desirable species. Make
a written or photographic record of the trees. If necessary, wrap
flagging around the trunk to suggest monitoring is taking place.
Do this work when the foliage is off the trees.
property owners to double check and agree to property line.
a good will gesture and to indicate your earnestness about protecting
your assets, invite the neighboring property owner to walk with
you and agree to the position of the property boundary. If any
areas are in question, hire a professional survey crew to set
the property line. Mark the line with flagging or paint only after
agreed upon or professional survey. Too often, adjacent property
owners play boundary tag, removing and posting boundary limits
when the other is not around. This may actually encourage timber
Patrol your property.
Forest owners should make a habit of actively patrolling the boundaries
of their woodlots. If there is logging activity in the vicinity,
the patrols should be increased.
about suspected timber theft
If you want to report and prosecute timber theft on your property,
you need to collect as much information about the trespasser(s)
as is possible. You should record in writing the following:
- Time and date of
the suspected violation
- Identifying features
of the suspect or vehicle
- Location of violation
- Description of the
- Number of suspects
- Type of activity
Any law enforcement
agency in New York State can make an arrest for and prosecute
trespass violations. Environmental Conservation officers will
follow up on timber theft allegations.