What Is Considered Timber Trespass?

Environmental Training Resource
October 23, 2012 — 1,007 views  
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What Is Considered Timber Trespass?

Albert Schweitzer highlighted the aesthetic value of trees: “There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” As foresters and certain environmentalists and government workers know, trees have environmental and economic value as well. Environmental impact includes, such considerations as wildlife, watersheds, and erosion; but it is their economic value that motivates timber trespass. 

Timber trespass is the intentional or accidental removal or damaging of trees on public or private land. It also includes the theft or damaging of specialized wood products (e.g., pine cones) and byproducts (e.g., native grasses, mushrooms, wild berries). Starting a forest fire can also result in a charge of timber trespass. 

Timber theft, itself, is divided into three types---affiliated timber theft, unaffiliated timber theft, and timber poaching. Of the three, affiliated timber theft is the most widespread and lucrative. Affiliated timber theft occurs when trees are taken by logging companies as part of an authorized sale. Modi operandi include cutting trees growing outside the harvest boundaries specified in the sale contract and/or taking species not named in the contract. 

Unaffiliated theft occurs when a commercial logging operation, cutting trees for a private landowner without a formal contract in place, trespasses onto adjoining land and harvests from that area as well. Affiliated and unaffiliated timber thefts are highly organized, corporate in structure, and economically motivated. Perpetrators believe that there is no real harm in what they are doing and that, in fact, it is the only way they can make a profit. 

Timber poaching, on the other hand, is much smaller in scope and may even involve an individual perpetrator. Timber poachers either trespass onto private land or access public lands in order to fell high-value trees. They might harvest a small batch or a single tree. Poachers are often low income individuals and/or those with substance abuse problems.

Timber trespass brings serious economic consequences to all levels of government and to the forest and wood industry itself. Paper consumption by developed countries has declined as information technology has increased in recent decades. This has contributed to an overall downturn in the forest and wood industry. Timber trespass adds to the problem. In turn, local, state, and federal governments are impacted by a corresponding loss of tax revenues that would be otherwise be collected from legitimate organizations engaged in authorized cutting and collection operations. 

 

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