According to this report, trees on privately owned land aren't safe from illegal logging. If you have wooded property, read this story carefully and start lobbying your reps for better laws to protect it from this kind of growing problem.
Timber thieves make away with leafy bounty
WHITESBURG, Kentucky (AP) -- The crime scene -- a once-wooded landscape marked by tire tracks and tree stumps -- makes the victim, Verna Potter, feel physically violated.
"It's just like someone cut your heart out," says the 77-year-old Potter, who lost an estimated $50,000 worth of generations-old oak trees, which were taken from her property and sold, without permission, while she was away.
Rogue loggers have long preyed on private properties from coast to coast, taking advantage of the elderly, the absent or -- in Potter's case -- both. And they traditionally had little to fear from law enforcement officials hesitant to pursue criminal charges, instead chalking up most complaints to property disputes.
But as timber values rise, so have the stakes for landowners -- and the attitude of law enforcement is adjusting accordingly.
"The authorities who have dealt with it as a property matter are starting to look at it as more of a criminal matter," said Joseph Phaneuf, executive director of the Northeastern Loggers' Association. "But it's not happening without a push from the individuals affected."
In recent years, there's been a steady movement to curb illegal logging. Some states, such as Mississippi and Virginia have established specific timber theft laws, making illegal logging on private property a felony punishable by jail time.
Other states, including New York, have started timber theft prevention campaigns that warn property owners of the common claims thieves make when caught red-handed.