With the rising costs of lumber, the crime of tree poaching is increasing. A Pikeville man has pleaded guilty to stealing timber from Bledsoe State Forest.
In June, Agricultural Crime Unit Special Agents with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture charged John T. Simmons with timber theft after Simmons was seen loading logs onto a trailer along a forest road.
After a grand jury indictment, he pleaded guilty to all charges, including theft of property, criminal trespass, and vandalism. Simmons will serve one year probation and must pay back the value of the logs and the costs of retrieving the stolen timber.
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The Crime Unit and the Division of Forestry worked with Bledsoe County’s law enforcement and district attorney on the case. The stolen logs were part of a salvage sale from timber that was blown down in the area.
“Whether the timber theft is intentional or accidental, on public or private land, it can lead to fines and possible jail time,” ACU Captain Greg Whitehead said. “The estimated value of the 24 stolen logs, in addition to the employee and equipment costs associated with this case, were part of the penalties assessed. Stolen timber can be hard to track, and we were fortunate that Simmons was observed stealing the logs. ACU will follow every lead and use every tool at our disposal to find and prosecute timber thieves.”
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.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry protects Tennessee’s forests by fighting wildfires, coordinating hazard emergency response, providing prescribed fire guidance and contract services, as well as wildland fire training. Additionally, the Division promotes the responsible use of forest resources by assisting landowners, providing quality seedlings, monitoring insects and diseases, improving urban forests, managing state forests, protecting water quality, and collecting forest inventory data.
The Division also works to promote primary and secondary forest industries to stimulate the state’s economy. Visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests for more information.