Timber theft is a common problem especially in southern Ohio, but is often unreported. Theft of standing timber can result in aesthetic, financial and environmental consequences. This type of theft can occur in many ways. One prevalent issue is absentee land owners, thieves see their absence as an easy target to harvest the timber and keep the profit for themselves. Timber thefts can also occur when more is harvested than the owner and logging company initially agreed upon. Thefts can get more elaborate as well with thieves impersonating absentee land owners or lessees profiting from sales on land they do not own.
There are a few ways to help protect your woodlands from timber theft. An important step for general woodland management that is beneficial in theft prevention is knowing and clearly marking your property boundaries. As well as knowing boundaries, it is helpful to have a working knowledge of what timber is in your woodlands. A consulting forester can help you conduct and inventory that will be beneficial if the unfortunate occurs and you must report a timber theft. If you live on the property go out and walk the property periodically. Absentee land owners should have a forester or neighbor check the property often. Those land owners should also let their neighbors know that there are no timber harvests planned and to contact them if they see such activity.
When conducting a timber sale, make sure there is a contract between the land owner and the logging company that is specific and detailed. Trees should be clearly marked by the land owner possibly with the help of a consulting forester. It is important to have an inventory of the number and types of trees to be cut. Let neighboring woodland owners know of the harvest and work together to verify property lines
If you do experience timber theft there are steps you can take to help recover at least financially and hopefully prevent the thief from getting on other property. First and foremost contact your local law enforcement and insist they come out to investigate. If an investigation can not happen quickly document the theft with pictures. Ohio has a law (Ohio Revised Code 901.51) that prevents the “destruction of crops and timber.” If convicted the thief would face a fourth degree misdemeanor and have to pay damages to the landowner.
As woodland owners it is important to know your woods and keep a watchful eye on them. Mark your boundaries, have an inventory and update them often.
More information can be found from the OSU Extension Factsheet. http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/F-97
As well as the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry. http://forestry.ca.uky.edu/trespass_theft