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Timber Theft on Private Land

Sign on a post indicates the property corner
Corner Posting

Timber theft is a concern for everyone involved in good forestry. The trees in your woodlot are a valuable asset which should be protected. Landowners must take the responsibility to prevent timber theft on their property. Theft of timber from forest lands can destroy generations of careful forest stewardship and cause irreparable environmental damage.

Prosecuting timber thieves is expensive and convictions are often very difficult to obtain. The best way to deal with timber theft is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Landowners should be intimately familiar with their property and its boundaries. If boundary lines are unclear, a survey by a licensed surveyor would be a wise investment.

Image of a Painted Boundary Line
Painted Boundary Line

Property boundaries should be well marked either with posted signs or blazes and paint. These blazes and paint should be refreshed on a regular basis. If an owner does not live on the land then some type of aid should be enlisted to help monitor activity on the property. Neighbors to the property, sports persons, local police and others may be willing to help keep an eye on the property. Owners should be aware of logging operations and other activities on neighboring properties and inspect their boundaries often to guard against line encroachment. The fact that the property is being watched helps prevent timber theft.

Unfortunately all these preventive steps will not guarantee some of your timber won't be stolen. If you happen onto a theft in progress, immediately contact the DEC Division of Law Enforcement. Be aware that if you accept money from someone stealing your trees, regardless of the amount, you have received compensation and it may no longer be considered a theft. Timber theft can happen in various ways. In some cases, the thief had no right to be on the property in question and cut and removed logs/trees. These range from the cutting of a few trees that can be loaded onto a pickup truck by hand, to full scale operations involving skidders and log trucks and the removal of thousands of board feet of timber. Another form of theft involves the logger removing trees not included in a sale. A good measure to prevent this form of theft is the use of a professional forester and a well written contract in which each tree sold is marked and recorded.

How to Report Timber Theft on Private Land

The Environmental Conservation Police are experienced at investigating instances of timber theft. To report a suspected timber theft contact your local DEC Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO), or the Report all Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267). Be ready to provide complete information about:

  • Who was involved
  • What was taken
  • Where and when the theft occurred
  • Other relevant facts

Timber Theft Prevention

For Theft Prevention Information call your nearest NYSDEC Regional Forestry Office.

Please see links for Cornell Cooperative Extension and New York Forest Owners Association in the right column of this page for additional information on timber theft.