Update on U.S. Timber Law: Indiana Edition

Last week we did a “Greatest Hits” collection regarding the U.S. forests. I thought it would be time for some fresh content on this important topic. I’d like to start on a high note by looking at Indiana.

I’ve often cited Indiana as a good example of controlling their forests well, and perhaps more importantly, providing good statistics that help in evaluating risk.

A great deal of due diligence comes down to Risk Assessment. I like to point to this publication by the government of Indiana as an excellent resource for someone wanting to justify a low risk for the state:

The Forest Products Industry in Indiana harvested an estimated 403.7 million Board Feet Doyle (bd ft) per year between 1999 and 2003 for an estimated total of 2.0185 billion board feet in the five-year period.

 

The total for known wrongfully cut timber in the same five-year period was 812,006 bd ft, which is 00.04 percent of the 2.018 billion bd ft harvested. Inversely, 99.96 percent of the timber removed in Indiana was legally acquired, harvested, and processed. A large percentage of the cases that fall within the wrongfully cut category are often accidental problems that are settled between parties not requiring law enforcement action or the Division of Forestry’s (DoF) intervention.

Not only does the State tell the buyer that the amount of illegal timber in the supply chain is a fraction of a percent, but it also notes that much of that is accidental, and therefore hopefully will be amicably resolved between the two parties.

Indiana is also unusual in the U.S. in requiring timber buyers to be licensed. This was done specifically to reduce the amount of illegal timber in the commercial supply chain. Timber buyers need to be bonded which is a terrific step as well. The state maintains a database and puts out monthly newsletters about timber sales and other issues. Having this information available upon request provides both buyers and sellers with tremendous security.

Enforcement is not only possible against a harvester but can be applied against timber buyers, landowners, consultants and land surveyors. For example, misrepresentations or errors regarding lot boundaries by anyone in the process can lead to liability.

Indiana also has an established system for addressing charges of timber theft. Individuals can request a hearing with the state’s Natural Resources Commission, and if the judge finds a licensed timber buyer to be at fault, restitution can be made from the bond on file, so at least some recovery is assured.

A terrific resource of information on Indiana Forests and timber laws can be found here.

And if you are interested in buying/selling timber in Indiana (or anywhere for that matter!), go here for some good advice.

All in all, Indiana gets a great grade for having a strong program to protect the state’s forests and their owners, and ideally, encourage recognition of their real value to us all.

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