Over the recent months, more than 20 timber theft cases have been reported in East Texas from Newton to Bowie Counties.
Approximately one-third of the more than 200,000 family forest landowners in East Texas are absentee forest landowners. This, plus the rising price of timber makes property vulnerable and easily accessible to timber thieves.
Timber theft is a crime and it affects everyone. Timber owners suffer monetary loss, but everyone stands to lose as the natural resource is taken without reforestation methods in place to ensure a new forest for the future.
In Texas, many timber theft cases involve absentee landowners who are susceptible because they aren’t around to protect their property. In these cases, the thief is often long gone by the time the crime is discovered.
“We are discovering that in more cases than not, the thieves are promising higher than market timber trend prices,” said Les Rogers, Texas A&M Forest Service Chief Law Enforcement Officer. “In a few instances thieves also claimed to be affiliated with certain reputable organizations to gain the trust of unsuspecting landowners.”
Landowners are advised to demand a bill of sale as Texas law requires that one is obtained from the seller. The bill of sale must include information such as the name of the landowner, seller and purchaser. It should also include a description or survey of the land and trees, and a warranty and signature from the seller.
To help property owners avoid timber theft tactics, the Texas A&M Forest Service advises:
- Have someone you know and trust report any cutting on your land immediately.
- Never sign a contract without checking several references of the buyer.
- For the best price insist on getting bids for your timber.
- Mark all property lines to assure cutting on adjacent property does not encroach on yours.
- If the landowner does not know the timber business, find someone to help determine volumes, current prices and potential bidders.
To report suspected timber theft activity call the Timber Theft Hotline 1-800-364-3470 or contact Texas A&M Forest Service at (936) 639-8100.