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Be alert: timber trespass, timber theft is on the rise

December 11, 2013
BERLIN — District I Regional Forest Ranger Capt. John Accardi of Lancaster and forest ranger Jason Huter of Berlin met with members of the press on Monday morning to alert area residents to their being forced to issue summonses as well as misdemeanor and felony theft charges to men who have removed wood from piles of logs and what may appear to be woody debris out on major haul roads, especially within 20 miles of the now-operational Burgess BioPower plant.

Some thieves have also used chainsaws to drop trees without written permission of landowners — both publicly held and private industrial lands.

With increased chipping operations now taking place in Cos County, some of the wood being stolen may look like "junk wood," Huter explained. "People may think it is 'left-over' wood," he said. "It's not; its wood that's been piled up, waiting to be chipped and then ultimately taken to the Burgess woodyard. This is wood that's destined for a sawmill or a power plant; it's not wood for a fireplace."

"Every tree is owned by somebody," Accardi reminded. "If you're going to collect wood on someone else's property — in their woodpile in their yard or in their woodlot or on an industrial forest tract — then you need written permission. You're not allowed to use a chainsaw on someone else's land without written permission; that's a liability to a landowner. The rules are clear, and they are strict."

Occasionally loggers do inadvertently stray across someone else's poorly marked boundary, and then they must make restitution, Huter said.

Recently someone sawed the ends off some nine-foot, 6-inch-long birch logs for use as firewood. "That person degraded $100 sawlogs into something worth $1 each, likely having no idea what he was doing," Hutter explained. "Furthermore, sometimes guys pick up lengths of wood or branches that have been laid down on a haul road to stabilize it against erosion. That wood is not being wasted; it's part of the forester's prescription!"

Huter asked that those who believe they are observing people stealing wood report it, either by calling his cell phone at 381-3489 or by calling the Lancaster office at 788-4157.

Wood theft is a serious matter, and both he and Accardi want to stop thieves in their tracks.

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