Update on US Timber Laws: Kentucky Edition!

By Elizabeth Baldwin

Last fall I posted an extended interview with Nina Cornett about timber theft in the United States. Nina’s been particularly active in her state of Kentucky where she’s been working with her local legislator, Leslie Combs, to try to change the state’s statutes and the state’s everyday methods of dealing (or not dealing) with this piracy.

As part of their effort to reform Kentucky law, Representative Combs has introduced a bill at every legislative session for several years, including this one: House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 29. Nina provided more details:

Q. So, what do the chances look like this year?

A. It’s too soon to tell. For one thing, there’s been a change in Committee Chairmanship. The former Chairman, Representative Jim Gooch, who has earned our appreciation by easing the bill through the Natural Resources and Environment Committee and the House itself the last several years, has moved out of the chairmanship position. So we’re dealing with a new hierarchy in the House although of course we hope they’ll recognize the seriousness of the issue and will help us again. On the Senate side, I’ve been in touch with several senators, including Senator Joe Bowen, who had worked effectively on timber legislation in earlier sessions, and he has said he will support our effort on the Senate side. That’s encouraging.

So is the fact that the Kentucky Conservation Committee, a non-profit headed by Lane Boldman, is taking an interest in HCR29. Lane and her Board have named it one of their “strongly-support” bills this year, and they are tracking it closely.

For your readers who live in Kentucky, or who might buy timber or wood products produced in Kentucky, I hope they will write their local representatives or go to the government website and leave a comment in support.

Q. When might you know something about its prospects and progress?

A. It’s moving forward. On the fifth of February, it got a thumbs up in the House Committee, and on the tenth of February, it passed the House and went to the Senate. It hasn’t been assigned to a Committee yet, but we are contacting Senators to try to enlist support. We probably won’t know what our chances are until it actually passes or fails the Senate.

Q. Has anything else been happening in this area?

A. Well, since I have web crawlers on the lookout for mention of timber theft, there’s always something. Timber theft never stops, as proved by all the timber theft reports in the months since October. That’s the bad news. Or perhaps “bad” is not the right word. Generally, the web crawlers only find the reports because there’s been a prosecution, or at least attention to the problem. In the long run, that may be good.

And we’ve had good progress as well. For instance, National Public Radio did a segment on timber theft last fall that covered anybody in reach of its airwaves in Kentucky. Since it originated out of a Louisville station, it should have been heard in Frankfort, the seat of government, and maybe somebody there took the problem on board.

Besides the “good” and “maybe good” news, though, there has been one piece of really bad news since October and it came out of Virginia. It has set Virginia timber theft victims back substantially, but is too long to go into here.

Q. Can you tell me about it next week?

A. Absolutely!

Folks, I’ve asked Nina to talk about Virginia next week. And remember that you can find more information about timber theft at two websites that Nina maintains, www.timbertheft.org, and www.ecooutpost.org. In addition, you can find information about Nina herself at her website www.cornettmedia.com.

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