Protecting Your Woodlot Against Tree Poaching

Advice on boundary marking and legal measures to prevent unauthorized logging in your woods. June 15, 2014

I am a bit of a rookie to say the least when it comes to forestry. I have a property several hundred miles away from where I live. How does one protect the illegal harvesting of trees and is this a valid concern to have? The folks that live around my property are real nice but every one of them has the ability to cut down a tree without anyone noticing. What is the best way to keep the honest people honest when it comes to trees?

Forum Responses
(Forestry Forum)
From contributor B:
One of the first things I would do is blaze and paint all of your boundary lines so they are well seen and established. I would also hire a forester to write up a forest management plan for you so this way you know what you have for an inventory, what management you should be doing within the next ten years and where. If someone is going to steal timber from you can usually see the direction of where the trees were dragged out to (neighboring property). Your forester can investigate timber trespass issues if they arise which hopefully they don't. I would try and be friendly with the neighbors and if you know of anyone else in the area that can periodically walk the land you will have a heads up of what is happening on your property.

From Contributor Q:
The forester you hire should have your best interest as the number one priority. Some states offer programs for small woodland owners. Your local DNR office can help you find a good consultant forester. Foresters from sawmills usually don't have your best interest in mind. They are looking for the best wood at the least expensive price. I worked for a small woodlands owner who was offered $20,000 from a local sawmill for the logs on his property. He thought that was a lot of money for his wood but after a cruise on the land there was almost twice that in log value. He was glad he hired a consultant to take a look at the wood. I have worked on a few trespasses and most states allow triple value of the stolen wood. However when you have a tree that is 20 years old that is being cut at 40 you have to discount the value of the 20 year old tree to the point the tree was trespassed and there isn't much value left unless you have veneer grade cherry trees on your land.

From contributor Y:
It has been my experience that your neighbors are not likely to steal your timber, but rogue loggers might. If one of your neighbors ever have his/her timber logged, then your timber is at a higher risk by the logger cutting over the line (accidentally or intentionally). Also, if the wrong person finds that you live a long way off, then they may try to steal your timber. Marking your boundary lines gives you some legal ground to stand on, should someone steal your timber. If your lines aren't already marked (by a fenceline, creek, ditch or rockpile, etc.), you may need a surveyor or consulting forester to help you make sure you mark them correctly. You would need to check with that state's laws concerning marking boundary lines, to make sure that you mark them up to standards. Also, finding a friendly neighbor is your best method for protecting your forest - if you aren't opposed to hunting/fishing, you may consider giving permission to a local sportsman in exchange for them keeping an eye on your place.

From contributor J:
Good points all. I'll add that you probably have more to fear from neighbors cutting firewood than any large scale timber rustler. I found that involving the state police in even the slightest theft of timber or trespass sends notice to all around that you are vigilant and won't look the other way. One other note, if you give permission to hunters make it clear to them about your rules regarding tree stands. I've had trespassing hunters damage large trees with stands and steps, and cut small trees to clear shooting lanes, all without permission.