Scam Alert for Forest Landowners

The Virginia Department of Forestry has received several reports of a man posing as a representative of the state agency who is approaching elderly and widowed landowners in Central Virginia trying to buy the timber on their property. This is a scam that could cost the landowners tens of thousands of dollars.

VDOF Assistant Regional Forester Robbie Talbert said, “We have an individual who has been contacting landowners in Goochland and Fluvanna counties telling them that ‘Forestry’ has asked him to contact them regarding selling their timber. While he doesn’t explicitly mention the VDOF, by invoking ‘Forestry’ he is trying to associate himself with the Virginia Department of Forestry. VDOF does not have any employee or contractor contacting landowners for the purpose of selling their timber.

“While some landowners have contacted our Goochland office asking whether this person works for us, it’s quite possible that other landowners are being scammed – an action that can cost them thousands of dollars. We want citizens to know that this individual does not work for the Virginia Department of Forestry, and that the VDOF does not purchase timber. Anyone making such a sales pitch to landowners is trying to scam these citizens. We urge landowners who may be contacted by someone claiming that ‘Forestry’ sent him to purchase their timber to contact their local sheriff’s office and report the incident immediately,” Talbert said.

Before landowners consider selling their trees, the Virginia Department of Forestry has a few tips that may enable them to attain – and retain – the maximum value from their timber sale while minimizing the overall impact to their land; protecting the water resources that either originate or pass through their property, and keeping them on the right side of the law.
First, have a plan!

Chuck Wright, VDOF area forester for Goochland and Fluvanna counties, said, “Most forest landowners harvest timber only once or twice during their lifetimes. It’s extremely important to have a good plan for overall management of their timber resources as well as a specific timetable when that timber is going to be harvested.”

A sound timber sale is the result of careful planning, management and marketing, and each of these variables can make a tremendous difference in the amount of money that their timber sale will bring.

Things to consider in a timber sale are:

• Volume and species of timber to be sold

• Statement of purchase price and method of payment

• Length of time allowed for cutting

• Boundary line location and CLEAR marking of those boundaries

• Restrictions on logging, such as designated places for skid trails, haul roads, logging decks and stream crossings

• Required use of Best Management Practices, or BMPs, for watershed protection

• Responsibilities of the logging contractor at the completion of the harvest to repair any damages caused by his activity and to stabilize any erosion that has occurred as the result of the harvest

Although professionals who work with the Virginia Department of Forestry can provide landowners with recommendations on how to manage their timberland, including when to harvest, VDOF employees do not provide landowners with a value associated with the sale of their timber.

Wright said, “As a state agency, the VDOF does not sell timber, nor do we ask individuals to solicit timber sales on our behalf. It is solely a private enterprise, and it is a landowner’s individual decision as to whether he or she would like to sell timber.”

Landowners should also keep in mind that timber markets tend to fluctuate, and it is often best to solicit the services of a private consulting forester to handle a potential harvest and provide them with information regarding the value of their timber. Upon request, the VDOF can provide landowners with a list of private forestry consultants who work in their area.

Second, know the Law!

In Virginia, water quality protection from timber harvesting is the responsibility of not only the logging contractor and the timber owner, but also the landowner.

The Virginia Department of Forestry oversees the enforcement of the Silvicultural Water Quality Law. This law mandates the protection of the Commonwealth’s streams and rivers from any negative effects, mainly sedimentation, caused by timber harvesting. The law allows for the issuance of civil penalties of up to $5,000 per day for failure to correct problems due to sedimentation caused by the logging activity.

Wright said, “The important thing to note here is that the penalty is placed on ALL owners and operators, which includes the landowner. So it’s vital for you to be involved with your timber sale to the extent possible, or have a professional forester who is looking out for your interests on your timber sale.”

The Virginia Department of Forestry is available to provide landowners with assistance in planning their timber harvest. Please call the VDOF regional office in Charlottesville at 434-977-5193 and ask to be put in touch with the appropriate field personnel for your area.

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