Category Archives: Policy

Government and Industry Policy Discussion

You are encouraged to respond to UK Extension survey

The University of Kentucky Extension is interested in better understanding the issues that are important to you in your community. In response, the Kentucky Cooperative Extension System can tailor new and existing programs to address the highest priority issues that directly impact you, your family and your community. You do NOT need to be familiar with Cooperative Extension to complete this survey. The survey should take no more than 15 minutes to complete and all of your responses will be completely anonymous and confidential. We very much appreciate you taking the time to complete this survey at  http://bit.ly/KYExtension.  The deadline for completion is Oct.26, 2018.

A CASE OF TIMBER THEFT IN KENTUCKY

Editor note to timber theft article

Editor’s note:  The following article is submitted by KWOA member Ed Sheehan. Although the owners do not live on the property in western Kentucky where the timber theft occurred, they had a boundary survey on file and immediately gathered extensive documentation regarding the theft that expedited prosecution of the thief. However, an unexpected action on the defendant’s part may have extended the prosecution for quite some time. Updates on this situation will be added as they become available.

Further information on Timber Theft and Trespass is available from the Kentucky Division of Forestry:

http://forestry.ky.gov/LandownerServices/Pages/TimberTheftandTrespass.aspx

And the UK Forestry Extension:  http://forestry.ca.uky.edu/trespass_theft

 

My wife and I have owned 20+ acres in Kentucky since 2010. The property was surveyed in 2010 and was only partially fenced.  In January, 2018 we found a freshly cut area on the back side of the property.  Someone had stolen multiple trees and damaged several more.  The damage trail led all the way to a neighbor’s property and we could see a logging truck loaded with fresh timber.  Aha, caught red-handed!

I immediately contacted the Kentucky Division of Forestry who informed me they could not help me and suggested I call the county sheriff. I called the county sheriff and he told me to call the police department, which I did. The police officer informed me that it was a civil matter and I would have to hire lawyer.  So, no one would come out to file a report!

I then contacted two lawyers. The first lawyer said he was too busy and gave me the name of another lawyer.

I was determined to fight for my property and this is the process I followed.

In February 2018 I hired a surveyor, at a cost of $1,100.00, to survey the unfenced area of my property and stake it for fencing.

In March 2018 I hired a forestry consultant for an estimate of damages.  I was also given a restitution estimate of $10,332.00 and $450.00 for erosion control cost. The cost for the estimate, documentation and photos was $250.00.

I contacted the second lawyer and was told he charged 1/3 of the settlement and 1/3 of $10,332.00 was not worth his time.  So, I wasn’t getting any help anywhere!

When I compiled all my information concerning the timber theft, I visited the county attorney’s office and completed a COMPLAINT INFORMATION FORM. I presented the completed form and my folder of documentation to the county attorney. I was informed that they did not have much luck in winning these cases. So, it looked like another turn down!

Then she looked at my documentation.  I believe my thorough file (containing the property survey, loss and damage estimates, and photos of tree stumps, damaged trees, and trails of the loggers) helped to change her mind rather quickly as it only took about 15 to 20 minutes for them to decide to take action.

I was informed that the penalty of three times the value of the timber could not be applied in this situation or any damages to property because that would require a civil suit.  I was just relieved that the prosecutor was going to prosecute the thief and bring attention to the situation.  We were on our way!

When we went to court in June 2018, I was surprised to be informed before the hearing began that the defendant had agreed to reimburse me $3,000.00 (this was the cost of the stolen trees per the forestry consultant) per an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor.  The defendant agreed to this in order to keep from being charged with a felony and the money would be paid in three monthly payments. After to agreeing to the settlement, the Defendant paid $1,000.00 to me and then changed his mind and decided not to pay the remaining $2,000.00.  He has been indicted by the county prosecutor and we are awaiting a court date.

Things must change.

Timber theft is a big problem in Kentucky and counties do not have the resources to investigate these thefts.  I believe we landowners need a process to follow and I have some suggestions.

  • The police should be required to come out and complete a written report to the land owner. The officer does not need to know the value of the timber or be certain of the boundary lines. The report only needs to list the number of trees or the approximate acreage involved. This is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • The landowner can then contact a surveyor to confirm the boundary lines if the landowner needs an updated survey. The original or updated survey is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • The land owner could then hire a forestry consultant for an estimate of the stolen and damaged trees along with any damages to the property which will require seeding. This is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • Take photos of tree stumps, damaged trees, trails of the loggers and anything else that applies. This is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • All documentation can then be turned over to the county prosecutor for necessary action.

I believe the most important part of this process is the police report. The police report states that a crime (theft and property damage) has occurred. This report should be added to state statistics concerning timber theft. This gives a more accurate representation of timber thefts occurring in the state. Without statistics, it is not recognized as a problem and no action will be taken. The landowner needs to work with the police department because this documentation is necessary when contacting the prosecutor.

Timber thieves must be held accountable and doing so will help to reduce the temptation of stealing others property. Landowners really need to work with county prosecutors to lessen timber thefts and reduce the financial burdens they must endure.

Gov. Bevin Makes Appointments to Kentucky Forestry Best Management Practice Board

Media Contact: Nicole Burton

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 1, 2018) – Gov. Matt Bevin has made the following appointments to Kentucky Boards and Commissions:

Jack Stickney, Christopher Scott and Jeffrey Stringer have been appointed to the Forestry Best Management Practices Board.

  • Jack Stickney, of Irvine, is a farmer and senior geologist for the Kentucky Rural Water Association. He will represent at-large woodland owners and serve for a term expiring April 22, 2022. Jack is a KWOA board member.
  • Christopher Scott, of Bowling Green, is a forest ranger technician with the Kentucky Division of Forestry. He will represent the Kentucky Division of Forestry and serve for a term expiring April 22, 2019.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Stringer, of Lexington, is a professor at the University of Kentucky. He will represent the UK Department of Forestry and serve for a term expiring April 22, 2022.

The Forestry Best Management Practices Board updates Kentucky’s forest practice guidelines for water quality management and the Division of Forestry’s administrative regulations regarding timber harvesting operations.

Also serving on the board are Portia Brown, KWOA vice president, Harry Pelle and Lyndle Barnes, KWOA board members.

Legislative Alert: A NEW Challenge to Forest Health and State Focused Funding

A set of bipartisan bills introduced in the US House and Senate as Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health of 2018 which aim to “fix” the problem of proposed budgets from the US Forest Service that reduce funding to state based initiatives.

Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2018

KWOA members are encouraged to contact federal legislators to request their support for the bills.

New Challenge to Forest Health

February board meeting highlights

KWOA’s Board of Directors considered a range of issues at its February 15th meeting. It is already on the go to support fair land assessments for sustainable working forests, federal disaster assistance for woodland owners, federal funding for state-based forest health programs and state funding for land conservation.

Portia Brown, Secretary, developed an “about KWOA and why you want to join” response to an inquiry to the website’s Contact Us page. That response is available for use by KWOA members in discussions with persons interested in KWOA. A website-friendly version is posted on the News and Forest Management Practices pages of the website.

KWOA is preparing correspondence to Representative Palumbo on timber shortage and “working farms.”  Rep. Palumbo introduced HB 576 that would require farm land assessments to provide evidence that the property is actively farmed. The KWOA letter notes that Kentucky’s forestland is not as productive as it could be while demand for forest products is growing. The correspondence includes KWOA’s position paper on Sustainable Forestry and Agriculture.

KFIA announced that Cliff Taylor, KWOA board member, has been selected as the 2017 Tree Farmer of the Year is. Herb Lloyd has been nominated as Regional Tree Farmer of the Year.

Emerald Ash Borer  Joe Ball observed that the federal government subsidizes cheap food. It is important for forest industry and woodland owners to help politicians see that federal subsidies for forestry supports a healthy environment.

UK’s Forestry Department has published a white paper on The Ash Disaster in Kentucky.

The board discussed seeking some form of disaster assistance for forestry including the non-insured crop assistance program and application of certified working farm criteria. The board has formed a committee to work on the issue.

Moments after its formation Portia Brown, Don Girton, Steve Perry and Joe Ball – begin work on the new committee’s objective of obtaining federal disaster assistance for woodlands damaged by invasives Photo by Henry Duncan

The UK Forestry Department has submitted a grant application for landscape level activities to secure the future of white oak in Kentucky. A companion piece to the grant application is a set of bipartisan bills introduced in the US House and Senate as Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health of 2018 which aim to “fix” the problem of proposed budgets from the US Forest Service that reduce funding to state based initiatives. KWOA was encouraged to contact federal legislators to request their support for the bills.

Land Conservation: The Kentucky Conservation Committee has prepared a letter supporting state funding for the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund which has experienced significant cuts in the last state budget and is slated for continued reductions in current budget proposals (HB 200). KWOA members are encouraged to sign on to this initiative.

In Arizona, the trees have become the enemy of the forest.

Masses of spindly young trees crowd the forest floor and become tinder for destructive forest fires. Instead of focusing on the value of the trees to loggers, the Nature Conservancy’s Future Forests project would make it more viable to remove the young trees that make Arizona forests so dangerous. But thus far the project’s loggers, truckers and sawmills have not met tree removal targets.

Read more…

KWOA Board considers range of important topics at it meetings

Woodland property assessment

The on-going appeal regarding property assessment by Jim Corum, KWOA past president, is based on a lack of constitutional appropriateness regarding the disparity in application of property assessment criteria. The current assessment has economic implications for landowners regarding forestland as an investment given the carrying cost of the tax burden. For example, as a percentage of net income, woodland owners pay 15.6 percent of net income compared to 3 percent for corn farmers.

 

KWOA has conducted lengthy discussions covering many aspects of the issue including what criteria distinguish personal use from agricultural use for timber properties and the potential impact on counties’ tax base, particularly in light of the significant decrease in tax revenues from mined minerals.

 

Rough estimates indicate that Kentucky timber resources are only about 25 percent as productive as they could be due to lack of management. The KWOA board voted to form a committee to define what constitutes sustainable management practices. The committee will attempt to compare differences in tax rates between properties that implement sustainable management plans and those that don’t.

Recent high-profile property tax assessments for lots slated for future development in Fayette County resulted in new criteria for agriculture exemptions. There is no similar criteria for tree farms. KWOA is developing a related position paper focused on retaining property tax exemptions for all 10+acre woodlands. The position paper supports greater rewards for woodlands with active management plans. The first effort will be to develop and agree on the criteria that will differentiate a “working forest” (actively farmed) from a personal use or “volunteer” forest.

U.S. Congressional Working Forest Caucus

U.S. House and Senate bipartisan caucuses were formed to pursue common legislative objectives and policies relating to responsible, active management of privately owned forests. No Kentucky congressional legislators are members of these caucuses.

KWOA sent letters with the UK Kentucky Forestry Economic Contribution Report 2016 to the state’s U.S. senators and representatives. Sample letters were sent to KWOA members to encourage them to contact their congressional legislators about joining a caucus.

 

Member presentation on timber harvest

Eric Shrader, woodland owner and KWOA member, made a presentation to the board regarding his experience with a 2015 timber harvest. He shared the challenges, lessons learned, and the result of his efforts to have a logging inspection report corrected to reflect what he considered to be violations of best management practices during the harvest. A summary of his presentation is on the KWOA Practices page at www.kwoa.net.

 

Guest presentation from Dendri Fund

Barbara Hurt, Dendri Fund Executive Director, explained that the Dendri Fund is an independent foundation that gives grants focused on working groups: wood, water and grains. Born out of Brown Forman, a family-owned business, the Fund invests in building relationships, creating dialogue and shared learning, and fueling innovative solutions bringing together diverse perspectives. The Fund is in the process of changing its policy from a transactional to transformative grant-making process.

McCauley Adams, with Dendri’s wood working group, spoke about its focus on the importance of wood products to Brown Forman and to the quality of life for Kentucky’s future generations. Members brought up possible topics of mutual interest such as sustainable management of forests, the importance of other species besides oak and barrel-making and the threats from invasives.

 

KWOF sponsors six programs during 2017 with $3,450 in funding

KWOF contributed sponsorships to the following entities during 2017:

Greenup County Conservation District – $400 – to help fund their annual Woods and Wildlife for Your Wallet program.

Leopold Conservation Award – $500 – honors Kentucky farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who voluntarily demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources.
UK Forestry Student Scholarship – $1,000 – to an outstanding student enrolled in the University of Kentucky’s professional forestry degree program.

Woodland Owners Short Course – $650 – The WOSC is designed to assist Kentucky’s woodland owners in the care and management of their woodland resource.

UK Kentucky Forestry Leadership Program – $400 – for two competitive scholarships to the weeklong program at Jabez for students interested in natural resource management.

Salt River Watershed Project- $500 – managed through the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.

 

New Kentucky Division of Forestry Director outlines plans for agency

Recently appointed Director James Wright introduced himself and updated the board on agency activities and plans. Mr. Wright reported on staffing levels at the agency and his goal to streamline management personnel and increase field staff, including an urban forester position. There is real hope to have US Fish &Wildlife Service provide ongoing support on all enforcement issues. Kentucky foresters are being sent to other states on fires and management practices through new neighbor agreements with the US Forest Service. These changes are saving general fund dollars and looking in new directions to fund and promote sustainable forestry.

Pam Snyder, KDF Stewardship Branch Manager, reported that emerald ash borer has been found in six more counties. The division is re-gearing to roles that have an economic return. It is developing a cooperative agreement with NRCS on easements and timber stand improvement.

 

Emerald ash borer

The office of the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture has agreed to hold a meeting to discuss issues and economics related to the emerald ash borer. The emerald ash borer (or EAB), a native of Asia, is a half inch long dark metallic green beetle that kills ash trees within three to five years after they become infested.

Former KWOA president Joe Ball has contacted several statewide agencies and associations regarding the EAB threat. He assured the board that forestry is a big issue for the current commissioner, Ryan Quarles. In discussions with the commissioner’s marketing staffer, Ball thinks that woodland owners who have experienced timber loss from EAB damage may qualify for disaster relief funds. The USDA Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Forest Restoration Program provides payments to eligible owners of rural nonindustrial private forest land to carry out emergency measures to restore forest health on land damaged by natural disaster events. Insect disease is mentioned as damage that is eligible for relief funds.

 

UK Forestry Extension is developing a fact sheet utilizing existing forest inventory data for ash trees and EAB infestations to project the economic impact of resultant stumpage, canopy and overall downstream loss from this invasive. (Ash trees comprise seven percent of forest species in Kentucky.) Joe Ball recommended that loss payment be tied to cleanup and active management of future timber.

Governor signs Timber Theft Legislation SB38

Senate Bill 38 relating to timber theft passed both the Senate and the House with one amendment and was signed by the Governor.

The bill amends KRS 364.130 to specify that a person, regardless of state of mind or whether the person believes to be authorized or not, is liable for three times the stumpage value of the timber and three times the cost of any damages to property when he or she takes the timber of another without legal right or color of title.

The amendment exempts residential property owners and farmland owners maintaining their fence rows who mistakenly remove the timber of an adjoining property owner from the requirement to pay treble damages.

 

KWOA and NWOA support resolution to create Timber Theft and Trespass Reduction Task Force

HCR 29 directs the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission to establish a Timber Theft and Trespass Reduction Task Force to study issues regarding timber theft and trespass and to develop consensus recommendations to address those issues.

The task force would meet three times before submitting its final report to the LRCommission by November 30, 2016. The LRC has authority to alternatively assign the issues identified in the Resolution to interim joint committees or subcommittees.

Sponsored in the House by representatives Combs, Denham, Howard, Montell, Nelson, Osborne and Riggs, the resolution passed 95-0 in February. It is now in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

KWOA voted at its annual meeting to support the resolution with a letter from President Frank Hicks. In addition, Keith Argow, President, National Woodland Owners Association submitted a letter of support to the senate committee. In his letter Argow notes that “…Kentucky has one of the weakest positions against timber theft of any state.” He argues that, in addition to inherent flaws, Kentucky’s current statute with respect to timber theft, KRS 364.130, is a civil statute that requires timber theft victims to file civil suits, an action that is out of reach for many landowners. The result, Argow concludes, is that “logging theft is an almost risk-free crime.”

KWOA members are encouraged to call and/or write their senators on the Natural Resources and Energy Committee in support of HCR 29. The 2016 legislative session adjourns April 12.

Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee
• Sen. Jared Carpenter [Chair]
• Sen. Brandon Smith [Vice Chair]
• Sen. C.B. Embry Jr.
• Sen. Chris Girdler
• Sen. Ernie Harris
• Sen. Paul Hornback
• Sen. Ray S. Jones II
• Sen. John Schickel
• Sen. Johnny Ray Turner
• Sen. Robin L. Webb
• Sen. Whitney Westerfield