In the case that timber is stolen, or is in dispute, establishing an estimated value for the timber is of utmost importance. When this occurs, the services of an experienced forester are required to take available information from the site in question to determine how much wood was taken and calculate its likely value.
If you happen upon a timber theft, notify law enforcement and gather whatever information you can, including photographs. If the people who cut your timber have left the property, look for equipment tracks to determine where the wood was taken to a road. Identifying the “landing” site could go a long way in determining guilt.
Timber theft often goes unnoticed, unreported, and in many cases may be the result of an error rather than an intentional theft of property.
If you catch a thief in the act, do not get into a heated confrontation. Let law enforcement officers deal with this. You should also be wary about accepting any payment for the cut trees, especially if you don’t know how many were taken or what their value is. Once you accept payment, it is no longer a clear case of theft, and you may be stuck with compensation that does not approach the full value of the wood.
If a culprit is identified, it may be necessary to hire a licensed land surveyor to prove trees were cut on a given property. Green Fire Forestry & Wildlife Services can conduct a “stump cruise,” using any information still available at the site to estimate the value of the trees that were cut.
*Tim Russell is not a land surveyor, real estate appraiser or attorney. Information on this page or otherwise provided by Green Fire Forestry & Wildlife Services does not constitute legal advice. The services of other professionals are often required in seeking restitution for stolen timber.