All posts by Chris Majernik

Caught Three Times

Greetings!

I have talked frequently in this newsletter about the unique challenges of landowners trying to not only find a source for harvesting their timber, but more importantly finding one that is ethical and will do the work as agreed and pays per the contract agreement.

Your woodland is a considerable financial investment and a source of personal enjoyment and satisfaction. Years of growth can be derailed in a few days when you hire a logging company that does a poor job. A poor job being damaging residual stands, cutting trees outside the contract, damaging roads, underpayment and even a refusal to pay for harvested timber.

The story below is about a logger who had three counts of failure to pay in the past six months alone. Those were just the ones identified. There’s no telling if there are others who have just not come forward for whatever reason.

Selecting a good contractor is a serious issue. I can’t caution enough about the importance of making sure the logging company you select has integrity and competence. Below I’ll share some tips from the American Forest Foundation (Hiring a Logger) for you to consider when looking for a logging company.

Read on to learn about James Travis Johnson. His thefts are relatively small but that is typical for most timber thefts. They don’t just steal once. In the end there have been several victims. I don’t know about you, but even small amounts of theft aggravate me!

While you are reading, consider how you can make sure you don’t become a landowner without the trees or the money you should have earned from the harvest.

As always,

Aaron
Vernon Paris Man Arrested for Timber Theft


History certainly seems to repeat itself in this case. The first account in this case is when 48-year-old James Travis Johnson was arrested by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s Enforcement agents and booked into the Vernon Parish Detention Center on Timber Theft and other timber-related charges on August 9, 2022.

Later that day he was arrested in Rapides Parish on additional timber theft charges.

Weeks before following an investigation, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry ‘s Enforcement agents (LDAF) received a complaint that Johnson failed to pay for loads of timber valued at $1,860.74.

 If convicted, Johnson could receive a fine of up to $5,000 and/or jail time up to five years for the timber theft and up to $1000 in fines and/or up to one year in jail for the false statement.

Two days later, on August 11, Johnson was arrested again for two additional counts of timber theft. Again, LDAF Forestry Enforcement agents received complaints from two separate landowners who each owned four-acre tracts of timberland in the area.
In the first complaint the landowner told authorities that Johnson harvested the timber per their agreement but never paid the landowner. In the second complaint, the logger cut a tract of timber without the consent of the landowner.

As far as I can tell, the case has not yet been to trial .Then, three months later, in November 2022, a landowner accused James Travis Johnson of completing a harvest, without making any payments to the landowner. The landowner was owed $24,407.65 for the timber. Johnson was charged with one count of Harvest of Forest Products/Failure to Remit Payment. Although he was contacted several times, he would promise payment and then not show up. Finally, he surrendered himself at the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office on the one count of failing to pay. Bond of $20,000 was paid and Johns was released on the same day.
Finding Good Loggers

Choosing the best timber harvesting company or logger for your land can be a daunting process. There are many professional loggers with integrity and will pay on time and accurately. It is important to invest the necessary time and resources to make sure you find one that is ethical and trustworthy.

Thanks to the American Forest Foundation, here are a few tips to do that:

*Go by word of mouth. Ask your consulting forester or your states forestry organizations to refer a logger or ask your fellow woodland owners.

*Check Qualifications. Do they have any training or certifications? Most professional loggers will be participating in logger training and certification programs. These programs are not mandated but continuing education participation contributes to professionalism.

*Check References. If you don’t know of anyone who has used the company, ask them to give you references. Specifically ask about the condition of the trees that were not harvested and the condition of the surrounding land and soil. Consider visiting a site the logger had harvested.

*Insurance/Liability. Request copies of certificates of insurance such as general liability, auto liability for log truckers, workers’ compensation. If the logger doesn’t have insurance, you could be held personally liable for any accidents on your property.

*Multiple bids. Get at least three bids based on the clear scope of the work. Clearly mark the trees you want cut.

*Negotiate prices. Check stumpage prices (the price offered by a logger for your trees as they stand in the forest) offered for similar timber listed with published sources or call local mills directly for the most up-to-date market prices. Understand if the prices include accessibility, timber quality, road distances, market demand, sale volume, species, etc. to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

*Sign a contract. Clearly lay out what the logger will do, e.g., which trees to cut, what clean-up will be done, how damage from heavy equipment will be minimized, and payment amounts and time frames.

* And if after you consider all of these data points, you may find yourself in need of a good consulting forester check with the Association of Consulting Foresters to find a forester near you. (this last bullet point is my opinion and was not part of the tips provided by the American Forest Foundation).
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Global Crackdown: Operation Thunder 2022

Greetings!
Greetings!

I’m continuing my international theme this month with a look at a multi-national, cooperative effort by INTERPOL and World Customs Organization (WCO) with the intent of disrupting the wildlife and timber crime trade.

In a December 7, 2022, article by industry Intelligence Inc. (http://www.industryintel.com), the APO Group on behalf of INTERPOL shared some interesting information about a one-month global crackdown on illegal wildlife and timber trade. INTERPOL and World Customs Organization (WCO) joined forces in October 2022 to enact hundreds of arrests. Their intent was to disrupt the wildlife and timber crime networks working globally.

The operation is codenamed “Thunder 2022.” It brought together police, customs, financial intelligence units, wildlife and forestry enforcement agencies from 125 countries. These types of world operations began in 2017, but this is by far the largest number of countries participating. 

Results are still being reported. The total impact may never be fully known as it is difficult if not impossible to ascertain the impact of these actions as a deterrent from future such illegal activities. As of December 2022, Operation Thunder has performed almost 2,200 seizures and the identification of 934 suspects. In addition, agents identified 141 companies suspected of engaging in illegal sales and worldwide seizures of protected animals and plants.

As always,
Aaron
Results of Operation Thunder 2022

Searches were conducted focusing on illegally traded species protected by national legislation or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an agreement between governments that regulates the international trade of wildlife and wildlife products. It includes everything from live animals and plants to food, leather goods, and trinkets. also known as the Washington Convention. The Checklist of CITES species allows the exploration of more than 36,000 species of animals and plants and their degree of protection.

The Thunder operation focused on utilizing preventive measures already in place. Through routine inspections and targeted controls, law enforcement officers inspected hundreds of parcels, suitcases, vehicles, boats and cargo transporters. Oftentimes, they used sniffer dogs and X-ray scanners to support their efforts. Searches were conducted at land and air border checkpoints.

So far, seizures of protected animals and plants include:

  • Wildlife: 119 big cats and other felines, 34 primates, 136 primate body parts, 25 rhino horns, 9 pangolins, 750 birds, 1,795 reptiles, 1, 190 turtles and tortoises, as well as tons of various animal and bird parts, such as elephant ivory.
  • Plants and timber: Timber seizures include Rosewood, Cacti, orchids, etc.

In Southern Africa, Namibian authorities intercepted large amounts of timber before they were smuggled into the region. Angola arrested a citizen of the Asian region attempting to return to the region with rhino horns and ivory ornaments. Malawi authorities seized elephant tusks at the home of a man with Asian citizenship.

In Asia, Thailand reported seizures of tortoises from East Africa and hundreds of live reptiles from Europe. Indonesia seized timber bound for the Middle East and Asia. India seized 1,200 reptiles (iguanas, pythons, monitor lizards, and tortoises) declared as “ornamental fish” and packed in cardboard boxes.

Europe has become a growing destination for protected wildlife. France intercepted reptiles from Central Africa hidden in luggage, Germany intercepted tiger skin amulets in a parcel from Asia and the UK seized several ivory pieces after investigating a man selling wildlife through an e-commerce site.

In the US, several international airports seized parrots, iguana eggs, coral, crocodile leather products, caviar and shark meat.

These are just a few of the reported items seized. It shows the robust and widespread nature of illegal international trade. With that understanding, it is easy to see the importance of having the type of global cooperation seen in Thunder 2022. Without that, any country’s individual efforts would be quickly thwarted. Large scale cross-border operations are the only weapon against transnational criminal networks. Customs administrations can refine their risk management strategies. Multi-stakeholder cooperation can tackle the full range of the trafficking cycle – from detection to seizure to arrest to prosecution. By sharing trafficking intelligence, both ahead and during operations, field officers can

More Than Just Conservation

Thunder operations are important to global security because timber and wildlife trafficking are not just conservation issues. For the communities and countries where illegal trafficking occurs, livelihoods are destroyed, diseases are spread, governments weakened, and entire economies destroyed. The lucrative financial gains that illegal trade offers, attracts serious organized crime and terrorist militants.

Operations like Thunder 2022 not only put criminals behind bars, but also protects the personal lives and global economic systems. In addition, it raises public awareness about what species or products people can or cannot buy, sell, or take from the wild.

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Energy Crisis in Europe: Firewood Becomes the New Gold

This month I’m taking a little different twist on timber security by looking at theft, but also at global conditions that could have a dramatic impact on the timber industry as a whole for many years to come. This is not the first time that a wood crisis in one part of the world had a great impact beyond the immediate area. It was not that long ago that a wood shortage in Japan brought floating sawmills to the US Northwest to meet the emergency need.

The current situation in Europe could have the same impact on the US and global supply chains. When there are shortages in any product or resource, there are thieves who either take advantage of the situation or steal to meet personal needs.

This month we take a look at the wood shortage situation in Europe. We’ll first try to get a sense of the extent of the problem and how ordinary people and especially the poor are most adversely affected by the energy crisis just as winter moves into the area.

Once we get an idea of the lives of energy consumers, we’ll look at some of the complex issues raised in Europe that got them there.

Hope you find it all enlightening. It might also be a good time to try to read our crystal balls to see how this could eventually affect the US timber industry.

As always,
Aaron


Throughout Europe energy prices are spiraling out of control.As a result, many Europeans resort to firewood to keep themselves warm as the winter months have already arrived in many parts of the continent. People are venturing into the forests to cut down their own fuel and those trees are on public and private land.

Gas and electricity prices have risen dramatically placing average citizens in jeopardy while temperatures drop.

As a result, many citizens are looking to wood as a heat source this winter, but even obtaining wood for fuel has become a problem. In Bulgaria, which relies heavily on wood burning for most households, prices have doubled. Local media reports from Poland last month asserted that prices of firewood have already doubled this year. The Telegraph reported in August that firewood sales in the UK have increased five-fold.

Some desperate residents are burning household garbage to stay warm.

Furthermore, prices for wood pellets has nearly doubled according to a Bloomberg report. In July, the EU also banned the import of Russian wood and pellets.

The spiking prices are felt most by the poorest, especially those in Central and Eastern Europe where low-income households tend to be more reliant on firewood than gas.In anticipation of a wood shortage, timber theft is quickly rising as gas and electricity become increasingly un-affordable for ordinary Europeans. In spite of tighter controls by Forestry departments, forest owners find the thefts are getting more frequent and more brazen.

The story is the same across the continent. Firewood prices are soaring, warehouses have filled their waiting lists until next year, and there are growing concerns this situation will lead to major environmental problems.

Some government agencies have expressed concerns about the illegal logging, but others have chosen to turn a blind eye to the problem. In those cases, the government has even encouraged citizens to burn whatever they can, unless it is harmful, like tires.

This tug of war between the needs of the people for survival and the government and property owners’ needs to prevent theft and protect forests and property will only get worse.

With Russian energy imports dwindling, Europeans pray for a mild winter and European policymakers pray they can avoid energy rationing.

The impact is pervasive. It affects not only the citizens’ well-being, but the economy, the environment, and the dwindling oil and gas supply is slowing down the Continent’s economy and crippling industrial production. Germany, Europe’s largest economy is heading for a recession. 

Why is There an Energy Crisis in Europe?



While ordinary Europeans are looking for solutions and help today, policymakers are seeking long-term solutions to ensure reliable fuel sources for many years to come.
The reasons behind Europe’s problems are far from straightforward and illustrate how complex and interconnected the global energy market is. The interdependence of world markets affects economies, prices, and efforts to meet a variety of energy-related challenges. Add to that the push by world governments to remove traditional heat sources and rely on “green energy” and you can begin to see how big a problem we may all see in the near future.

In an article from the World Economic Forum, published on October 13, 2021, here are five things to know about Europe and its energy.

1. Global demand is recovering strongly after the worldwide pandemic.In 2020, demand for natural gas fell by 1.9%. That was partly because of change in energy use during the worst periods of pandemic disruption. But it was also the result of a mild winter in the northern hemisphere. Since then, demand is rebounding throughout 2021 and global gas consumption could have grown 7% higher than pre-pandemic levels by 2024. Some of this is also a result of a major switch from coal to gas. Even though gas consumption is expected to slow, the government may need to legislate to ensure a smooth transition.

2. Europe is reliant on gas imports

European gas production is in decline. Several North Sea gas deposits are running dry, as are a number of gas fields in the Netherlands. This leaves Europe increasingly dependent on gas imports, primarily from Russia and Norway. This could be an opportunity for Russia to underscore its credentials as a reliable supplier to the European market, but instead its exports are down from their 2019 level.

3. Prices are high and could go higher

There has been a 600% increase in European gas prices so far in 2021. Although governments are seeking ways to provide help against spiraling costs, the exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of building a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to further reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.

4. Winter is coming – again

The problem of low gas stocks is only part of the problem. Chartering ships to transport LNG around the world has been affected by a lack of shipping capacity, making responses to spikes in demand both difficult and expensive. Vessel charter rates have also spiked.

5. The energy transition: it’s complicated

Gas burns cleaner than oil or coal. It is used widely as a substitute for both in the production of electricity. Although it is playing a role in helping decarbonize electricity generation, gas is still a source of greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a 9% increase in annual gas demand between 2020 and 2024. That is significantly higher than the demand growth that would need to be maintained to stay in line with the target of net-zero emissions by 2070.

In the meantime, Europeans are fighting for reliable and affordable heat during the winter months right now. They can’t wait for a global solution. So, they turn to wood as an immediate source of energy and access for most people is only available by stealing what they can find. Their family depends on it.
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