Tag Archives: timber theft

Justice for Large Scale Timber Thief

Timber theft in the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge did not go unnoticed. Through persistence, good observation, cooperation between federal agencies and the willingness to take appropriate action, justice was served for one timber thief in eastern Washington.

Federal Wildlife Service Patrol Captain Kelly Knutson and a US Forest Service agent worked together for four years to catch and stop a large-scale timber thief from continuing to steal wood off federal land. Their persistence finally paid off in October 2019, ending a pursuit that started with just a hunch in the summer of 2015.

The information from this article came from the website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior. I’ve summarized the information here, but the original article was published at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Open Spaces Blog (fws.gov) on May 12, 2021.

Any summer drought conditions result in an abundance of dead trees that seem to be ripe for the picking to a timber thief. However, proving wood theft is tough. There are legal means to cut and harvest dead trees for firewood. The problem is the thieves know this. There are also too few law-enforcement officers in the woods. In this area, for instance, there is only one officer per million acres, and that makes for good odds for the criminals. Read on to learn how two officers’ persistence led to an arrest and conviction for timber theft on public land.

Although all cases are different, in this case, we were given a detailed step-by-step process used to catch and convict the thieves.

The Case

The summer of 2015 brought record droughts to the forests of the Selkirk Mountains in eastern Washington. More than one million acres burned that summer.

That same summer, Patrol Captain Kelly Knutson, a Federal Wildlife Officer, noticed a truck loaded with firewood for sale parked regular in a Safeway parking lot. He suspected the wood might have been harvested illegally since most wood is sold commercially instead of straight off the truck. In any case, the situation was worth monitoring.

By December 2015, there had been a rash of timber thefts in the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge. On four occasions, someone had cut and removed large trees from the refuge. Twenty large trees were missing, both dead and green trees. Knutson thought they might come back for more, so he became even more vigilant.

Knutson did not have to wait long. Soon he spotted a truck driving down one of the refuge roads. After witnessing multiple driving infractions, he stopped the vehicle and asked if they were cutting firewood. The intruders claimed they were just picking up fallen wood they found by the side of the road. When asked about other tire tracks in the area they quickly volunteered that the tracks might be from their boss and provided the boss’s name and phone number. He wrote them a ticket for driving without a license and sent them on their way.

Later, Knutson remembered that the truck he had stopped was the same one that he had seen in the summer, parked in the Safeway parking lot, loaded with wood. He checked the boss’s phone numbers against some firewood ads and found matches on Craigslist and newspaper ads. The company, “Oxbow Firewood,” was selling wood all over northeastern Washington and Idaho.

This was no small logging company looking to make a few bucks from cutting timber off their own land. Knutson would need more help.

Knutson decided to get that help from the U.S. Forest Service, long-standing partners in dealing with timber thefts. It seemed trees had also been taken illegally from Colville National Forest. Now, they just had to connect Oxbow to the timber thefts.

A series of breaks and actions from March to October 2016 led them to information and proof of theft that brought the court conviction:

  • On March 31, 2016, the Forest Service in Colville received a tip of people stealing large amounts of firewood from the national forest. The callers lived nearby and had watched the thieves coming and going all winter with many loads of wood. Following up on that call, Knutson drove to the area and discovered approximately 30 trees cut in an area high in the mountains. The trees were mostly live. This made the situation even more serious. It confirmed suspicions that Oxbow was cutting large numbers of live trees.
  • Then, another caller left a message with the Forest Service, claiming to be a former employee of Oxbow. The caller left details of the firewood theft scheme, trucks involved and areas of recent cutting.
  • Knutson set up a camera on a site the tipster had mentioned. To his surprise, he got many pictures of the suspects cutting, loading, and removing green trees from U.S. Forest Service property.
  • A few months later, in July 2016, a federal magistrate judge issued vehicle-tracking warrants based on probable cause. Officers found one of the vehicles parked overnight with a load of wood at a local Walmart, and they installed a tracking device. The next day a two-member team of U.S. Forest Service officers tracked the vehicle into Colville National Forest.
  • Later that same week in July 2016, Forest Service fire crew members came across people cutting a large number of green trees in a remote, un-roaded area. One of them drove off, to evade the fire crew, but one stayed. He was the Oxbow boss and owner.
  • Three months later, in October 2016, a federal search warrant was issued for the Oxbow business. Forest Service ands Federal Wildlife Officers served the warrant and found ledgers showing the number of cords cut and deliveries made.

When the officers interviewed the Oxbow boss, he confessed and identified all locations of wood theft across multiple counties.

Three years later, in October 2019, in federal court the Oxbow boss pled guilty to a plea agreement for the Theft of Government Property and Damage to Government Property on a U.S. Wildlife Refuge and U.S. Forest Service lands. Restitution to the government was $36,620, a three-year parole, and an additional fine of $6,000.

Lessons Learned

This case shows some typical situations found in nearly all timber theft cases and ones that should be on the minds of all timber owners, whether private landowners or those who represent the government to protect public lands. We’ve said these many times before, but it is worth repeating.

  1. Neighbors: Forests are often large, remote areas and not well-traveled. That makes them easy targets for theft in plain site. Let neighbors know who you are and how to get ahold of you. They can be your eyes and ears about anything suspicious that is happening on your land.
  2. Follow up. Make sure you follow up on any information you do get, whether from neighbors or anonymous callers. It shows the person who is calling that you take their observations seriously and that will encourage them to continue to talk to you. Even a false alarm today, may be the real thing next time. You don’t want to cut off the flow of information.
  3. Keep Tipsters Anonymous. Most people who report suspicious activity want to remain anonymous. Be prepared to follow up with actions that will give the proof directly to you and not just come out as hearsay in court proceedings. Setting up a camera is a great way to get clear proof of any actions taken.
  4. Document. Document any conversations and unusual activity, even if nothing comes of it right away. Be observant. Noting that a truck full of wood is parked in a Safeway parking lot every summer is important information to store in your mind for continued observation. Be trustworthy but be observant as well.
  5. Taking Action is a Win whether or not you Win in Court. The financial payoffs often are relatively small compared to your real losses. Generally, the thieves are small-time operators and won’t be able to pay large fines anyway. Judges are more likely to just give you the value of your timber without additional fines for your effort. But you will be making a statement to potential thieves that you take theft seriously and that will be worth its weight in deterring future cases.
  6. Be persistent. Finally, persistence pays off. A case is seldom built on one incident where thieves are caught red-handed and courts are anxious to gain restitution for landowners.

Timber Thieves, Wildfires & Tree DNA

In 2018, a blazing fire tore through Washington State’s Olympic National Forest. The Olympic National Forest is known for its towering, lush and wide-trunked trees. The bigleaf maple is among the more prized. Its wood is patterned and is sought for woodworking and manufacturing musical instruments.

Maple Fire Map

Before it was extinguished, the flames scorched 3,300 acres of land and destroyed dozens of valuable bigleaf maple trees. It was labeled the Maple Fire.

During the investigation of the cause of the fire, investigators found evidence of oversized stumps with sawed-off limbs which signaled that the flames could have been the result of a tree heist.

The investigation led to two men who not only stole trees from public lands but also started the massive fire burn that devastated the region. The story is detailed below.

Careless, over-confident timber thieves leave clues

Before getting into the details, it is good to think about how brazen it is when people steal trees from public lands. It is not only a felony, but they are stealing 60-100 years of growth and beauty that will take beyond our lifetime to replace.

The first twist in this case is that carelessness on the part of the thieves ultimately triggered a massive wildfire which destroyed thousands of acres of forest and created a trail that led to their arrest. Timber thieves often get overconfident and will leave clues that can be found by observant foresters, police, and landowners.

The second interesting twist in this case is that the two men responsible were proved guilty in court by the introduction of tree genetics. This is one of the first such cases where prosecutors used tree DNA to prove remains found in the wake of the wildfire matched that of the timber the men sold to local mills.

The inclusion of the tree genetics convinced a jury to convict Justin Andrew Wilke of conspiracy, theft of public property, depredation of public property, trafficking in unlawfully harvested timber and attempting to traffic in unlawfully harvested timber, according to a news release. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

His partner, Shawn Edward Williams was charged with multiple felonies related to the scheme in September 2019. Williams pleaded guilty in December 2019 (just three months after the arrest) to stealing the trees. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison. He maintains he stole the trees but did not start the wildfire.

The Brazen Tree Poaching Story

“Tree poaching is a growing issue in the Pacific Northwest. Thieves have consistently targeted public lands and national forests in Washington, California and Oregon, High Country News reported in 2017. Tree poaching costs the U.S. Forest Service as much as $100 million each year, and western Washington is one of the most affected regions.

As a result, police, federal investigators and the public have been on the lookout for those who are brazen enough to steal from public lands.

Because of the increased vigilance and attention to timber theft, Justin Andrew Wilke and Shawn Edward Williams decided to do their scouting work at night. From April to August of 2018, they walked the forest and used an ax to peel back the bark and check out the patterned wood underneath.

They targeted maple trees with patterned wood. These highly prized trees can be worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Patterned wood is valued among woodworkers and makers of musical instruments, such as guitars and violins.

Once the trees they wanted to poach were identified, they then returned later to fell the trees into smaller rounds or blocks, which they took to a private property nearby. They would then forge paperwork showing they harvested the trees from private property and sell it to a local mill who had no idea the wood was stolen from the national forest.

Court documents showed they made $400 to $7000 on the sales of a single tree.

Timber theft cases are generally hard to prosecute, but this one was the first to add the element of tree DNA to the prosecution’s case. During the six-day trial, prosecutors provided evidence from Richard Cronn, a research geneticist for the Agriculture Department’s Forest Service, who verified that the lumber sold was a genetic match to the tree stumps in the Olympic National Forest.

The strategy worked. “The DNA analysis was so precise that it found the probability of the match being coincidental was approximately one in one undecillion” (one followed by 36 zeros), prosecutors said.

But what about the wildfire? How does their effort to steal trees lead to additional charges for starting a wildfire? This is a great example of how over-confidence and a resulting carelessness generally is the element that red flags fraud and leads to discovery and arrest. Thieves often slip up somehow and will be caught if landowners, foresters, employees, etc. are paying attention.

The two men had been harvesting these targeted maple trees for several months without being noticed. Apparently, on August 2, 2018, however, Wilke, Williams and two other unnamed men set up camp near the eastern edge of the forest and embarked on a quest to find a bigleaf maple that would be a good target for sale. They found one, but while preparing to chop it down, they noticed a bee next near its base. Instead of giving up, they decided to try to kill the bees.

After trying to remove the bees with wasp killer without success, they decided to burn the bees out. Wilke doused the area with gasoline and lit it. The fire quickly grew out of control as they were not able to extinguish the flames with their water bottles.

First responders arrived on the morning of August 4. By that time, the fire was 30 feet wide and expanding. Once the flames engulfed a 90-foot-tall bigleaf maple, the flaming tree showered embers on the surrounding foliage and soon the blaze covered three acres.

This particular wildfire, called the Maple Fire, burned for at least four days before it was controlled.

The area continued to smolder until raid put it out, but the area continued to be declared unsafe until May – nine months later. In the end, the forest fire grew to damage approximately 3,300 acres of public land in and round Olympic National Forest. The incident is estimated to have cost about $4.5 million before the fire was contained.

It is still unclear how investigators connected Wilke and Williams to the Maple Fire. When questioned by authorities, they apparently lied about timber poaching and even claimed they didn’t know about the fire.

This summary of events was taken from the following sources:

“They stole prized lumber from a national forest. The trees’ DNA proved it, feds say.” Washington Post, by Jaclyn Peiser, July 12, 2021, updated July 13, 2021 at 2:54 a.m. EDT Tree DNA helps prove Olympic National Forest timber theft – The Washington Post

“Tree thieves tried to burn a bee nest. They started a forest fire that ravaged 3,300 acres of protected land, feds say.” Washington Post, by Allyson Chiu, October 1, 2019. Tree thieves sparked Washington’s Maple Fire in Olympic National Forest, prosecutors say – The Washington Post

Featured image credit: Tad Sooter @tsooter Public information officer for Kitsap Public Health District.


Rise in Price of Lumber Attracts Timber Thieves

Lumber prices have increased more than 180 to 280% since spring 2020 depending on which source you reference.

This price spike has increased the price of an average new single-family home by $24,386 since April 17, 2020, according to the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) and based on standard estimates of lumber used to build the average home. Due to the rising price of lumber, landowners should be on the lookout! The increased value of their trees brings an increased risk of timber theft.

Tree poaching has become a major issue recently in Tennessee where hardwoods are the main target. Thieves have stolen trees throughout Middle and Eastern Tennessee as reported by the Agricultural Crime Unit (ACU) in a recent news release. ACU is a specialized unit dedicated to investigating and enforcing state laws and regulations related to agriculture, forestry, animal health and agribusiness. ACU has been taking an aggressive stance to combat the rise in tree thefts they have been experiencing through increased information sharing, publicity on public media and active prosecution of cases.

In addition to the construction industries lumber “shortage”, the demand for Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon continues to be very strong. Both of those products must be aged in white oak barrels. Therefore, white oak timber right now has an extremely high value and with the increased demand for white oak, came an increase in white oak poaching,

Although not specifically in Tennessee, in April 2021, the National Park Service reported more than a dozen trees disappearing from Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park in northern Georgia. The theft included several old-growth oaks. A park ranger noticed a road where there should be no road and evidence that trees were being dragged away. An arrest was made, and the suspect took a plea deal, the National Park Service said.

Public media has been alive with news on the internet, news stations and other media with warnings to the local public and landowners. Their warnings should apply to all timber-producing states and operations, especially those growing the currently “popular species”.

A Case in How to Catch a Thief

One interesting article I found told the tale of Chris Rankin in Marion County, Tennessee.

Rankin is a property foreman for RGGS Land & Minerals and has been with the company for 17 years. RGGS is a land company with 20,000 acres managed for timber and mountain stone. Because Rankin has lived in the area all his life, he has a lot of good contacts who help him watch out for thieves. In his experience the thieves will cut down the tree and then come back later to pick it up.

Rankin recalled one case where he helped track the criminals down. He found one of the logs the thieves had cut and staged for pickup later. He carved the last four digits of his cell phone number into the butt of the log and set up a trail camera – the kind often used for deer hunting. He was able to catch the thief red-handed in town with the log on his trailer. Rankin called the police department and took them to court.

He said it would help if the mills didn’t purchase off the bed of a truck since it is clear the seller is not legitimate. Either way, he is determined to keep an eye out and he warns potential thieves he is watching out for them.

Steps to Take to Protect Your Land and Timber

Timber theft can be intentional or accidental. In some cases, the theft is an unintentional crossing of boundaries by legitimate harvesters. Ensuring clear contracts and boundaries are the best way to prevent such types of theft.

The rise in theft today, however, is more deliberate as timber thieves get in and out during the night without being noticed. They are driven to take advantage of this current lumber shortage and the additional profits to be had. The motive is money. Even though penalties include fines of double or triple the current market value of the timber, for more and more thieves, the risk is worth it.

Illegal cutting like this not only results in a loss of the trees but also generally brings property damage and negatively impacts conservation efforts and wildlife. It can be devastating to a landowner.

Aaron Gilland, Dendro Resource Management

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) not only urges forest landowners to be aware of timber theft, but also provides steps owners can take to protect their assets.

The first step to safeguard against timber theft is to clearly mark property boundaries and have a plan of action for ensuring the security of your timber assets. Landowners without marked property lines can unintentionally invite timber theft when neighboring land is harvested.

One of the best ways to prevent this crime is to know your neighbors and let them know when you are harvesting. Keeping in contact with your neighbors is especially helpful if landowners do not live on the property or plan to be out of town for an extended period. Write down your plan so they know specifically what you are asking them to do and get their agreement. Share your name, contact information and how to contact local law enforcement. Giving your neighbors permission to act on your behalf will encourage them to take action if they see anything suspicious. Otherwise, they might not want to interfere in what they see as your private business. And of course reciprocate when asked!

A current timber inventory with estimated value is another helpful tool should any theft occur. Consulting foresters can help guide landowners on how to mark their property lines and how to mark trees prior to a timber sale. The Division of Forestry in many states or the Association of Consulting Foresters maintain a directory of private consulting foresters who specialize in timber inventory and in damage and trespass assessments.

Finally, get to know a forester. Don’t try to do this alone. They can help prepare a plan to prevent thefts in the first place. Then if someone becomes a victim of timber theft, they will have resources available to help landowners every step of the way.


Trees Felled, But Where’s My money?

Dear Aaron: My Trees have fallen and I can’t get paid!

As I was contemplating this month’s topic, I received a phone call from an irate landowner and small businessman.

In talking with a colleague about a theft and fraud presentation a few years back, he came up with the title for this month’s newsletter. I didn’t use the title back then, but I knew it would come in handy one day. Sadly, it is too appropriate in many instances, especially the following.

Verbal agreements do not always stand up

About six weeks ago, the caller mentioned above reached a verbal agreement with a professional logger to harvest the trees on his property for a share of the market price the logger receives. The logger said he’d put the verbal agreement in a contract and then bring the contract over for both parties to sign and consummate the deal.

No contract, but tree harvest proceeds!

Meanwhile, harvesting began and no contract. The landowner didn’t think too much of it. He was busy and, as a business owner, he knew how hectic things can get. He signs contracts all the time in his business, so he wasn’t concerned with the delay in getting a contract for this timber deal. He’d hired a professional and he expected a professional to honor his word and deliver as promised. The logger had new equipment and a new pickup which added to the professional image.

Can you guess where this is going?

Six weeks have gone by. Harvesting is complete. The log deck has timber processed and waiting to be hauled and there is no logging equipment on site. The logger shows up with the scale tickets for the job, but the prices are not what was originally agreed. In fact, the prices are much lower. As it stands now, no payment has been made to the landowner.

What’s your next move if you’re the landowner?

Call a timber security specialist?

Call the sheriff?

Call your lawyer?

Call the state forestry agency that can assist with investigations?

Fortunately for the landowner, he lives in a state where the state forestry agency may be able to assist with this case and hopefully bring enough heat to bear on the logger to resolve the issues, maybe. After all, the landowner does not have a written contract and the verbal agreement wasn’t witnessed by anyone else.

Beware those who seem honest, yet do not follow through

Life is very busy for a small business owner and, for that matter, it’s busy for most of us. As you run from project to project, it’s tempting to let details slide, and trust that everything will work out in the end.

I hope that sharing this story, will cause you to take a minute to pause and look around your business and your life. Are you busy taking care of business and not paying attention to those “unimportant” details that may turn out to be very important after all?

If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you’ve seen a few articles about written contracts. You can find the links to those articles below.

Things to know about contracts for timber harvest

I suggest it’s time once again to review not only the importance of well written contracts but key items to consider and include to ensure your contracts are fair, accurate, well-documented and reflect the verbal agreements you have made. Finally, even if your contracts are solid, when things go wrong you need to know who to call. As timber security experts DRM is ready to assist should the need arise.

Prevent Legal Theft with Solid Contracts

Contract Fraud

Selling Trees


FRA Timber Security Webinar

Aaron Gilland, CFE, ACF, founder and President of Dendro Resource Management was one of the panelists for a timber security webinar presented by Forest Resources Association. The first presenter and co-panelist was Jeff Maynard, a Security Specialist at International Paper.

The webinar covered the basics of timber security. As noted on the FRA website, “This presentation included reviewing the basics every forester, wood buyer, and wood supply chain manager should know about preventing fraud and theft related to timber transactions and other timber security-related issues. Both presentations are an excellent training tool for entry-level natural resource professionals and a good review for experienced foresters and wood supply chain managers.”

Jeff Maynard, who was the first presenter during this webinar covered, “Elements of a Successful Timber Security Program.”

Aaron Gilland covered “Ten Things Everyone Needs to Know About Timber Security” and was the second presenter.


Top 10 Security Concerns for Landowners

The Unique Challenges of Securing Timberland

One of my fondest memories of visiting my grandparents in Colorado as a kid was piling into the truck with my grandfather and checking on the cattle! For me, it was a chance for my brothers and me to spend time with a grandfather who lived some 1800 miles from our house. For him, it was a necessary chore. Of course, while we were impressed with the places a four-wheel drive pickup could take us, my grandfather was looking at the fence lines, and gates, counting cows and having fun entertaining his grandkids.

Boots on the Ground Best Method to Ensure Security

That boots-on-the-ground approach to land security is still one of the best methods timberland owners can use to protect their land investments.

Of course, there is a big difference in the sightlines and environmental conditions while checking cattle on the plains of Colorado compared with those of 800 acres of Alabama timberland. With cattle, the entire property is fenced, the number of cattle in each pasture is known, and the access to those pastures is controlled.

Although the situations seem very different, landowners can learn a few tricks from cattle ranchers by focusing on those same three controls – fences, accurate counts and access control.

  1. Know your fences. Counting your acres is something most landowners do during the purchasing process. However, when the land has been in the family for generations, it is easy to think we know the boundaries and how many acres there are, but if the land has never been surveyed, you can’t know for sure. The first step in protecting your property is to know exactly where your property begins and ends. Get a survey to know exactly what you own and have the boundaries clearly defined to create an invisible fence.

    Unfortunately, on larger property holdings, getting an up-to-date survey can be cost prohibitive. If that is the case for you, get to know your adjacent landowners and work out an agreement outlining where the property lines are drawn as soon as possible. Understanding the property lines, even informally among the neighbors, can prevent accidental trespass of neighboring harvest operations. It is even better to make a sketch of the agreement of property lines or use the available plat’s and have each adjacent owner sign the plat as a testament that they agree with the line locations. This process will also alert you to disputes in the lines and open valuable dialogues with adjacent landowners before there is a problem.
  2. Know your timber volume. Get an accurate estimate of the volume of timber on your property. Any consulting forester should be able to quickly provide you with an accurate cruise. Knowing how much timber you have on your property can assist in your future management decisions.
  3. Protect the access points to your property. A third key to security for landowners is to prevent access where you can. To do that you need to gate roads and post “no trespassing” signs along the borders. You can’t post signs once and forget about it. Maintain the signs you do post. Just because you posted the lines 10 years ago, does not mean those signs are still there and legible.

    While reviewing your properties access points, be aware of posted signs that you didn’t put there. Posted signs you didn’t put there may be a clue to a line dispute with a neighboring property owner. Or you might have some unwanted guests who are claiming your property as their own. Some illegal substance growers have been known to post “No Trespassing” signs to deter folks from coming too close to their operations. Even the bad guys know those signs are an effective deterrent for anyone planning to enter the property.

    Be equally cautious if you post signs and then return in a few weeks to find all the signs have been taken down. Any unusual tampering with posted signage is a clue that someone is treating your land as their own.

    Finally, while discussing gated roads for controlled access, consider how you’re roads are utilized now. Placing a gate across a road that has traditionally been open, could have unintended consequences. I’m aware of many tragic stories surrounding gated roads where ATV riders are injured or killed running into gates they didn’t know were there (AVOID cable gates please!). Discuss gates with your insurance providers before you gate anything. This is especially an issue if there are special areas of concern on your property including ponds, lakes, rivers, or old mining operations that may draw the adventurous. One institutional landowner I know had to remediate the mud hole being used for 4-wheel drive exploits and then patrol the area for a few years to deter trespassers.

If you have implemented the top three things mentioned above, then you have already laid a solid foundation of property protection.

Taking Your Protection to the Next Level

Now, if you are ready to raise the sophistication of your security program, here are a few additional suggestions that will work together to deter unwanted visitors and an unwanted loss of assets:

  1. Contract Wisely. Utilize excellent contracts with those you do hire to assist in your forest land management activities. Get specific with the language used in each contract and be careful about making assumptions. If there are disputes later, what is on paper is the only thing that will count. Specifics include type of work to be done or nature of the agreement, equipment, and material to be used, time frame, standards or metrics for operational success, and payment terms. Any work done on your property should be spelled out in writing, so all parties are aware of expectations.

    I cannot emphasize enough, that lacking specific details in a contract will cost money! Here are just a few examples of situations I’m aware of:
  • · Handshake agreement on the harvesting prices leads to a landowner being promised one thing and paid a lower price.
  • · Push a road into the tract – can be interpreted several ways. To what specifications? Bicycle traffic, ATV traffic, light pickup or heavy truck?
  • · Acreage variances – tree planting, chemical applications
  • · Contract specifies harvesting all timber, however, pulpwood markets become tight, so all timber becomes saw logs, anything not meeting saw log specs is left standing
  • · How much chemical are they going to apply? What guarantees do you have? Direct observation of mixing process may be called for, especially when you consider the current costs of chemicals.
  • · Tree planting – how many, what spacing, what species, what generation, etc.
  • · Boundary lines – chopped, cleared and marked? Or just maintained? I may define maintained differently than you do! And all work must be completed before any payment is given! No exceptions.
  1. Increase the traffic on your property. Utilize hunt clubs if you own property where hunting leases are common. Not only can this provide an additional revenue stream, it will provide you with more eyes on your property that can alert you to any illegal access. The same can be said of the new recreational leases that have begun cropping up in recent years. Utilized properly, the increased traffic on your land can be a boon to your security program.

  2. Utilize surveillance cameras. If recreational leases and hunt clubs aren’t an option, deploy surveillance cameras on the common access points to monitor traffic. Cameras have dropped significantly in price over the years and many will operate months without a battery change. Most outdoor equipment dealers carry a large selection.

  3. Meet local law enforcement. Get to know the local law enforcement officers in your community and make it clear you will prosecute trespassers. If they don’t think you will prosecute and stand behind their efforts to enforce the law, then they will not be an ally when you may need them. If you have an illegal dump or trespass problem, let them know about it. Perhaps they can assist you by sending a patrol car periodically by your property to assist with surveillance. Don’t expect them to do your work for you. It is much more likely they will ask you about the surveillance you’ve been doing. Document your own efforts at surveillance and be ready to provide them with a copy of the footage.

  4. Learn about the selling process. One of the best ways to make a sale that is fair and in your best interest is to know your property, its value and the selling process itself. Many state forestry agencies provide excellent free guidelines for selling timber.

  5. Hire contractors wisely. Get references for any contractors you are considering for work on your property. Be sure of the folks you hire to assist with timberland management. I have run across lots of folks who buy timber that also will provide you a management plan for your forestland. There is an inherent conflict of interest in that relationship that should be avoided.

  6. Prevent illegal dumps. Preventing illegal dumps is a growing issue as many of our municipalities now charge a fee to dump. Rather than pay the fee, they find a backroad to your property which then becomes the point for dumping. If you have one of these sights on your property, even if it’s just a little one, clean it up as soon as possible. Little dumps will become large dumps if nothing is done.
Association of Consulting Foresters logo

Consult a Professional Forester

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a quality consulting forester can always assist you with many of these issues and, as a member of the Association of Consulting Foresters, I would recommend you start your search for a consulting foresters on their website. This is a trusted and professional organization and the ACF does an excellent job of policing its members to ensure you have a consultant who will keep your best interest at heart.