Rising timber prices and the value of individual species have enticed thieves to steal timber across Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) urges forest landowners to be aware of timber theft and provides steps owners can take to protect their assets.
“Timber theft can be financially devastating to a landowner,” State Forester David Arnold said. “The value of the timber is not the only loss. In most cases, the thieves damage property and negatively impact conservation efforts and wildlife. We want Tennessee landowners to know what they can do to help protect their property against theft or accidental harvest.”
Steps to safeguard against timber theft include well-marked property boundaries and a plan of action for your property. Landowners without marked property lines can unintentionally invite timber theft when neighboring land is harvested. The plan of action is invaluable if you do not live on the property or if you plan to be away for an extended period. Your plan should include your name, how to contact you, and how to contact local law enforcement. Share your plan with neighbors so they can reach you if they see harvesting on your land.
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 maintains a directory of private consulting foresters who specialize in timber inventory and in damage and trespass assessments at www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/landowners/consulting-foresters.html.
“We’ve had reports of oak trees, poplar, and some hickory stolen in Middle and East Tennessee,” Agricultural Crime Unit Special Agent LaLonna Kuehn said. “One of the best ways to prevent this crime is to let your neighbors know if you will be removing timber from your property. If they haven’t heard from you and see harvesting, they should contact you or law enforcement immediately.”
Whether the timber theft is intentional or accidental, it is a crime and can carry civil penalties of double or triple the current market value of the timber. If you experience timber theft, report the crime to the Agricultural Crime Unit (ACU) via the online Farm Tracs form found here www.tn.gov/agriculture/ consumers/ag-crime-unit.html or contact your local law enforcement.
ACU is a specialized unit dedicated to investigating and enforcing state laws and regulations related to agriculture, forestry, animal health, and agribusinesses. Visit the ACU’s webpage to learn more, www.tn.gov/agriculture/consumers/ag-crime-unit.