Following the signing of House Bill 790 – an initiative to strengthen Georgia’s timber theft and timber trespass statutes – the Georgia Forestry Association officially reinstated its timber theft reward program in order to provide greater security to member landowners who are concerned about protecting their timber assets.
The reward program aims to increase awareness of the new law while offering a $1,000 reward to individuals who provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of individuals or parties involved in cases of timber theft or timber arson. GFA members may purchase timber theft reward signs to display on their property. The signs are $14 each for aluminum and $8 each for plastic. For more information, call the Association at 478-992-8110.
“We want to increase awareness of the timber security legislation through this program,” GFA President Steve McWilliams said. “There are very few bad players in the industry, and increased awareness of this legislation should stifle their bad behavior.”
HB 790 contains several features that provide greater protection to landowners in cases of timber theft and trespass, namely, expanding the authority of the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) to investigate, issue warrants and make arrests in timber theft cases. Prior to House Bill 790, GFC had this authority only in arson cases.
According to GFC’s law enforcement division, landowners who have complaints about actions affecting their timber should follow three specific steps:
- First, attempt to resolve the situation with all parties involved.
- If that fails or if the harvesting parties are unknown, landowners should record all known information including contracts, dates, names and contact information for other parties involved and anyone who has knowledge of the events.
- Once that information is obtained, the landowner should report the incident to the local Georgia Forestry Commission office.
“As always, communication is key to successful timber transactions,” said GFC Director Robert Farris. “The GFC will continue helping landowners understand timber sale processes and their rights under the law as part of our obligation. We’re all on the same team, and together we can strengthen forest sustainability by promoting improvements to the systems that support our industry.”
To report an incident of timber theft or arson, contact the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Law Enforcement Division by phone at 1-800-GA-TREES (428-7337) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.gatrees.org/forest-fire/wildfire-prevention/law-enforcement/index.cfm.
In addition to expanding the authority of the Commission, House Bill 790 has several additional elements that help to ensure the security of timber transactions including:
- When timber is harvested without authorization, a landowner now may recover ‘three-times’ the value of the loss versus ‘one time’ the value.
- Scale tickets must be provided to the timber seller within 20 days of delivery to the receiving mill.
- Landowners’ exposure to liability may be reduced in the event of an overcut or other unauthorized taking of timber if the landowner takes certain steps (not required) including clearly marking property lines, having a survey conducted or executing a letter of agreement on property line location with the adjoining landowner prior to harvest, a copy of which must be provided to the timber buyer.
- The new legislation establishes a four-year statute of limitations from the time of the taking of the timber during which a landowner may pursue damages.
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About the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA):
GFA exists to conserve and protect Georgia’s private woodlands and forest product industries. GFA acts as the “voice of forestry” working to educate business, environmental and political leaders about Georgia’s responsible forest management practices, benefits derived from forestry, and landowner rights. GFA is headquartered in Forsyth, Ga. To learn more, visit www.gfagrow.org.