Whitesburg KY

Grand jury lists 7 ways to reduce theft of timber

A Letcher County grand jury says Kentucky’s timber theft problem could be reduced significantly if laws were enacted to require special licenses for loggers and landowners.

The licensing requirements are among seven recommendations for stopping timber theft that are included in the final report of the grand jury, which met in 18 sessions between March and November. The jury also recommends that the logging industry be required to buy public notice advertising similar to that now required of coal companies before they start mining operations, and says that all logs and stumps should be marked with a permit number issued along with the special license.

The recommendations included in the report would make it easier for law-enforcement officials and grand juries to determine whether were acting with criminal intent.

In May, the same grand jury declined to return an indictment in the case of an Ohio couple who drew national attention to what they say was the theft of at least $50,000 worth of timber from property they own at Craft’s Colly. The jury heard testimony in that case from a Kentucky State Police Detective and a land surveyor working on behalf of the couple, Marvin and Verna Potter, but said there was not enough evidence presented to show that those who took the logs did so with criminal intent.

The report is signed by Grand Jury Foreman L.M. “Mike” Caudill, a Whitesburg attorney who is now the chief executive officer at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation. The full text of the report follows:

“1. In each county of the Com monwealth, a registry indices for person and company involved in the harvesting, cutting or removal for commercial purposes of timber shall be maintained in the office of the county court clerk. No person shall be employed in harvesting, cutting or removal of timber in Kentucky without first having been registered in the office of the county court clerk of the county or counties in which he is to work, identifying the company or persons, if any, that he/she is to work for and the position(s) he/she is to hold with the company or persons. This employment license shall be kept on the person of a person so licensed when that person is actually engaged in the harvesting, cutting or removal of timber. For each logger, this shall also include a brand that is unique to the logger that is to be affixed to each stump, lapse and log cut in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, prior to removal from the property from which it was cut.

“2. In each county of the Commonwealth, a licensing indices for the harvesting of timber shall be established in the office or county court clerk, where a license shall be issued with a identifying number, the name of the owner(s) of the property to be logged, the lessee contracting to harvest the timber and the name of the logger, if different from the lessee, and the location and description of the property to be logged. No logs may be cut or removed from the property for the purpose of sale, nor may roads be constructed or other disturbance undertaken without first having acquired such a license.

“3. Timber shall not be cut, harvested or removed from the property of another without a written lease or contract that sets out the respective obligations of each party, names the adjoining property owners and incorporates or attaches a deed description of the property to be logged.

“4. Not less than thirty days prior to the beginning of the cutting or timber on the leased property, the owner and the lessee shall be jointly responsible to have published in the local paper of greatest circulation in the county, or counties, where the property lies, a notice of intent to log, which shall state the name, address and telephone number for the owner, the lessee, and if different from the lessee, the logger, along with a location of the property by reference to roadways and streams upon or next to which the property is situated or located, a deed description of the property to be logged, and the names of the adjoining property owners as known, or as listed in the Office of Property Valuation for the count(ies) in which the property is located. The advertisement shall be published for three (3) consecutive weeks and shall include a statement that the boundary to be logged has been flagged, the date that harvesting of timber will begin and that anyone who disputes the flagged boundaries or ownership of the property is to contact either of the above listed owner, lessee or logger prior to commencement of harvesting. In the event of coownership or joint tenancy in common, all persons having a joint undivided interest in the property to be logged must have signed the lease or have executed a written power of attorney to the person who signs as, or on the behalf of, the owner(s) of the property.

“5. Prior to the publication in the local paper as stated above, the owner and/or he lessee shall have caused the property or boundary to be logged to have been flagged by encircling the area to be affected with surveyor flags of bright color at intervals not more than 100 feet apart.

“6. When timber is cut, and prior removal from the property, the stump, the lapse and each log shall be marked with the permit number as issued by the county court clerk’s office, an identifying number for each tree and the brand of the logger. Markings shall be the means that will be legible for not less than five (5) years, whether paint, brand or metal/plastic tags.

“7. No person shall cut, harvest and/or remove trees from the property of another without first having complied fully with the above requirements. Any person failing to comply shall be subjected to criminal penalties for a violation, escalating with a second and/or third violation, including a permanent bar from being involved, directly or indirectly, in the logging/timbering industry in Kentucky. A violator shall also be liable in treble damages to an injured adjoining landowner.”

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