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Timber Theft: Three Methods Used by a Tree Thief

How Trees are Stolen and Ways You Can Prevent It

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Tom Kazee is s woodland security expert based in Orange Park, Florida. Tom has decades of experience in the woodland security business and contributes regularly to Tree Farmer Magazine. He has written a great piece on timber theft with tips on how to prevent this kind of theft.

Mr. Kazee suggests there are basically three ways timber is stolen. As a timber owner or forest manager, you would be wise to study these methods of theft and take preventative actions to avoid a rip-off. The purpose of this report is only to make you wise to the ways of a timber thief. Although the vast majority of people who buy and harvest trees are honest there are people who will cheat and try to deceive timber owners and sellers for financial gain.

A Way Thieves Steal Trees - Number One:

Thieves will set up a harvest directly on your property or will move over on you from an adjacent ownership. Although mistakes can happen to honest loggers, I am talking here about timber being taken with "evil intent".

Ways to Prevent the Theft:

  • Inspect your property regularly. Your own neglect can encourage thieves. Inspections will also catch insect and disease problems early and head off line encroachment.

  • Maintain and "refresh" proper boundary markings. It is much easier to do this when property lines are still visible. Always freshen up you lines when harvesting is occurring on adjacent property.

  • Cultivate good neighbors and encourage good lease-holders to keep an eye open.
A Way Thieves Steal Trees - Number Two:

Thieves will offer absurdly low prices for timber knowing that the landowner has no idea of the value. Although it is not a crime to give away your trees, it is a crime to misrepresent their value

Ways to Prevent the Theft:

  • Timber market values and tree volumes can be hard to determine without a professional. Always get a second opinion of values and volumes, especially where large acreage is involved. You might want to hire a forestry consultant or buy a timber inventory from a third party.
  • Check out all timber buyers by asking for referrals and by inquiring about the buyer at your local or state foresters office.
  • Avoid the temptation to make a "quick sell" to a friendly buyer. Take a deep breath and ask the buyer for some time for you to think about what you are going to do. You should not feel pressured by the buyer.
  • A Way Thieves Steal Trees - Number Three:

    Thieves can actually steal trees after you have approved and allowed the harvest. Poor accounting in both "lump sum" sales and "unit" sales can tempt a logger or a trucker to misreport trees cut and/or volumes represented.

    Ways to Prevent the Theft:

  • No timber should leave the loading site on "pay-as-cut" sales unless the load has been recorded by date, species, time and destination.
  • All records must be available for inspection and collected at the end of each week. These records should then be compared to scale tickets for reconciliation.
  • You or your agent needs to be on-site and visible at random times during the week.
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