Little Rock, AR -- Severe December ice storms damaged more than 300,000 acres of forest and timberland. Much of it is privately owned. Any woodland owner with damaged timber should be especially careful when hiring someone to harvest stands or remove debris.
No one knows for sure how much timber is stolen from the 192 million forested acres owned by all U.S. taxpayers. Former Forest Service chief Dale Robertson once guessed it could be worth as much as $100 million a year.
"Arkansas landowners lose millions to timber theft every year," said Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) chief law enforcement officer Mark Reed. "It is a tempting time for timber thieves. We see illegal contracts and situations where loggers come in, strip the land and then disappear."
Disaster recovery officials, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), as well as officials from the AFC, offer the following advice on how to reduce the risk of theft:
- Solicit the cooperation of others in watching over your trees. Absentee
landowners are particularly vulnerable to timber theft.
- Ask leaseholders to report any illegal activities to you and the local
law enforcement authorities.
- Properly mark boundaries to make it easier to prove a case if theft
occurs and to prevent honest mistakes.
- Develop a management plan for your property stating when and how you
should harvest timber.
- Agree to a payment schedule before any timber is harvested.
- Put all timber purchase, cutting contracts and debris removal agreements
in writing and keep a copy. Do not assume everyone involved will remember
and abide by the terms of an oral agreement.
- Specify in the contract which products are to be harvested and where
they will be delivered.
- Monitor logging operations. Count and compare the loads of logs removed
with the records from the contractor, sawmill or wood-yard.
- Check for fresh paint to see if the contractor has marked any additional
- Keep all correspondence-including envelopes, records of appraisals,
mill scale tickets and copies of checks.
- Report thefts immediately to your county sheriff's department and/or your local AFC office.