U.S. Forests: More Theft in the News

So last week we looked at how Indiana has a strong state program that keeps their recorded timber theft to a fraction of a percent of all harvests.  Many people assume that just buying anything in the U.S. is going to be OK.  But while there may not be large-scale timber theft operations, there are constant problems that buyers should be aware of.

Indiana reported a 0.04 percent figure of possible illegal timber in their supply chain.  According to research done by the University of Kentucky that state’s rate is 0.3 percent.  That still seems small, but it’s over seven times the rate in Indiana.

Nina Cornett of www.timbertheft.org, who I’ve interviewed a number of times in years past, said she’s been trying to put that number into perspective for Kentucky lawmakers.  She says that it may be a small number overall, but that it can be huge for the victim.  And that the state puts a lot of effort into smaller numbers.  She said:

I’m often told that “timber theft is too insignificant to warrant action.”  However, I want to look at the numbers to get some perspective:

  • 672 people died in vehicle deaths in Kentucky in 2014.  That represents .015% of our population.  0.015 is 20 times less than the timber theft rate of 0.3 percent, but country and state governments have put major resources into reducing that toll.
  • Kentucky had 160 murders in 2014 out of a population of 4.4 million, or a murder rate of .00036%, (which is one-two-thousandths of the rate of timber theft) but we (correctly) don’t consider that too small to worry about.
  • Robberies (3336) hit .07% of the population, or about one-eighth the rate of timber theft. Yet we pursue robbers.  Why don’t we go after timber thieves with the same intensity?
  • Vehicle thefts (6318) hit 0.14 percent of the population, which is less than a quarter of the loss to timber thieves, but we pursue auto thieves.
    –KY statistics pulled from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview

In other states, we have the bad news of many different cases of theft. However, the good news is that there have been some charges and some convictions as well:

Birch forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin are under attack, but there has been at least one arrest.

In Virginia, a recent conviction led to jail time and a $20,000 fine.

There was a conviction against a Michigan man who capped over 2700 Spruce trees over seven years.

A man in Mississippi was convicted of timber theft and a variety of other crimes.  In this case, a bulldozer wasn’t the tool used.  Rather deeds and affidavits were falsified to obtain title and timber rights of a 78.5-acre tract of land which were then used to sell the timber without knowledge of the 83-year-old rightful owner.

And here’s a quick look at another form of theft–fraud at the mill’s scales.

So just because it’s American, doesn’t mean it’s perfect. But I like the trend in convictions!