This month I’m reminded that timber theft or “poaching” isn’t unique to the United States. I ran across an article by Susan Lazaruk on October 10, 2018, about the rising problem of timber poaching in Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The pattern is the same in both places.
The article quotes Luke Clarke, a natural resource enforcement officer with the Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Ministry. He says the problem has been increasing over the last couple of years across the Island. The thieves target commercial-grade timber and are selling them to unscrupulous mills or unsuspecting mills by falsifying ownership records. Or unsuspecting individuals buy the stolen timber.
In many cases the culprits are clearly amateurs or unconcerned about the public land as they try to turn a fast buck. They are entering Crown land (Canadian government land) and chopping down old-growth trees, many of which are one hundred years old.
Nov 2018 — Timber Poaching a Growing Problem
As most of you know, our industry went from the big vertically integrated companies where timberland was a closely held asset for the paper and saw mills, to a world where the timberland has now been acquired by timber investment firms. That occurred in large extent in the early 2000’s, although you could draw the line even earlier than that.
Most of those transactions occurred with the purchaser also signing a wood supply agreement for the next 15, 20 or 30 years, depending on the contract and the companies negotiating. These agreements specified how much timber from the land the mills wanted back over the specified period.
Now it’s been 15 plus years and many of the agreements are expiring and/or being renegotiated. This is leading to a mixed bag of investment and ownership types. The highest and best use land has been spun into real estate deals where it made the most sense, and now high net worth individuals are investing in the smaller block deals (5000-50000 acres) while larger deals are still made by the various timberland investment organizations.
These trends are furthering a business model where major forest products companies specialize in manufacturing and look to others who specialize in land ownership to provide their raw materials.
Obviously, any change in the industry provides opportunity for those who take advantage of the system for their own gain.
This month I’m sharing a story of some con men who have bilked investors with a phony industrial park. Then I’ve put together some recommendations for those looking to invest in land, whether you are a timber company looking to reinvest cash from a prior land sale or an investor or landowner looking to purchase more land as your own investment.
And don’t forget the Forest Resources Association is having their forest products security group meeting next week in Starkville, MS, October 31 – November 1st. It’s a great place to hear more theft and fraud case studies. Hope to see you there. Oct 2018 — Con Men
I brought up the topic of wildfires last month and specifically discussed the issue of wildfire arsons. I wanted to continue the subject briefly again this month. The problem can’t be overlooked. According to Verisk’s 2017 Wildfire Risk Analysis, 4.5 million U.S. homes were identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire, with more than 2 million in California alone. Losses from wildfires added up to $5.1 billion over the past 10 years, and that number has risen in 2017 and 2018.
This month I thought I would share some statistics I found to help paint a picture of the extent of the problem. Beyond the statistics, since the subject has hit the political arena, it seems everyone has a theory about the causes and the best solutions. I don’t think our industry has had this much publicity in a long time. I thought I would share some ideas from professional foresters and forestry organizations. Sep 2018 — More Talk About Wildfires
With all the talk about wildfires in California and the Northwest these past several months I thought I would look at fire prevention and specifically at arson’s. Although we haven’t heard much about the causes of some of the biggest blazes this year, over time it is estimated that about 30% of all forest fires were started on purpose.
Arson investigations can be some of the most difficult timber security cases to solve and prosecute for two primary reasons. In the first place, the crime scene is usually isolated and remote, so finding witnesses to an arson event is rare. Secondly, most of the physical evidence is generally consumed by the fire and/or unintentionally destroyed by firefighters putting out the blaze.
Aug 2018 — Understanding an Arsonist
Greetings! This month I ran across several articles about cases that are in the court system for thefts in the timber industry. It reminded me that there always seems to be a debate about whether companies should even prosecute. So often the effort doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble and, in many cases, the money is never even recovered.
Therefore, I thought that this month I would summarize just a few of the typical cases that have happened recently all over the US and revisit the pros and cons of prosecution. July 2018 — So Many Cases
Everything seemed to be going well, until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. On August 21, 2018, Judge Reeves will sentence Arthur Lamar Adams for violating the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws. Adams has pleaded guilty to having devised a sophisticated Ponzi scheme that attracted at least 300 wealthy investors in 14 states to pour more than $100 million in the scheme. This may well be the largest Ponzi scheme ever committed in Mississippi. The courts acted quickly in this case to protect the victims and to assure quick resolution. June 2018 — Forest Industry Ponzi Scheme in Mississippi Largest in Industry
Do you know how many mills are within 50-100 miles of your tract of timber? How do you calculate how much it will cost in trucking fees to get a load of wood hauled to a particular mill? These questions have been asked countless times by foresters in land management, procurement, and timberland investment organizations.
They change so frequently it can be extremely difficult to keep track without help. To solve the problem, Dendro Resource Management, Inc. (DRM) has developed a website and smart phone app that will get you the answers you need quickly and easily regarding local mills so you can make informed decisions about where to take your timber. May 2018 — Map My Mill
The forestry industry has always struggled with thieves and fraud for a variety of reasons, most of which are peculiar to the nature of the work and the industry. A somewhat unexpected problem however is in identifying the potential perpetrators themselves. So what do forestry industry thieves look like? They are often ordinary, otherwise up-standing people. You wouldn’t pick them out in a line-up and you wouldn’t suspect them in day-to-day interactions. You trust them to have integrity in managing your assets, often without direct supervision. As such, it is difficult to anticipate or predict if, when or where fraud will strike along the industry supply chain. With multiple hand-offs and a variety of players in the process, no one has control over the whole chain of activities nor of all the people working in it. Opportunities for break-down abound. For the full article: Mar 2018 — Portrait of a Thief
According to a NEWS 2 investigation conducted by Rebecca Collett timber security was a major concern this past year as tons of trees had been cut down and removed from the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina. Her report was published on December 21, 2017. The thieves have yet to be found and the extent of the damage in loss of revenue for the government and in unplanned harvesting is still unknown and may never be completely discovered.
The Francis Marion National Forest is located northeast of Charleston, SC. It is named for revolutionary war hero Francis Marion, who was known to the British as the Swamp Fox because he hit and fought in the swamps of this forest. The forest includes 258,864 acres divided into four officially designated wilderness areas that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Each area is unique in its own way and provides a variety of services to the public including hiking, camping, and just the enjoyment of nature. Until now, timber security has not been one of the main concerns. Feb 2018 — In My Own Back Yard
What do you do with those gift cards you got over the holidays? Many people end up never using the cards, but I thought I would put together a few security-related gift ideas to consider for myself and thought I might share my wish list with you. When I started looking online for ideas, I was amazed at how many different types of alarm systems and security devices are on the market today. I didn’t personally try all of these so I’m not doing any product endorsement here, but once I started looking I thought I provide my readers with a snapshot of the range of possibilities. I looked for those with the highest 5-star ratings. Jan 2018 — What to do with those holiday gift cards