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Oak, Poplar, and Hickory Trees Stolen as Timber Prices Rise

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April 14, 2021 | Bill Esler

News Release

Nashville, TN – Rising timber prices and the value of individual species have enticed thieves to steal timber across Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) is urging forest landowners to be aware of timber theft and provides steps owners can take to protect their assets.

“We’ve had reports of oak trees, poplar, and some hickory stolen in Middle and East Tennessee,” says Agricultural Crime Unit Special Agent LaLonna Kuehn. “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.”

Map of Tennessee sawmills

Across Tennessee, forest-related crimes are being reported. The state is home to over 260 sawmills.

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. Tennesseans who experience timber theft should report the crime to the Agricultural Crime Unit (ACU) via the online Farm Tracs link www.tn.gov/agriculture/consumers/ag-crime-unit 

“Timber theft can be financially devastating to a landowner,” State Forester David Arnold says. “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 Tennessee 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.

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