Crawford County’s Secret Wealth

by William Jorden on February 21, 2011

by Harry Faber White, II, Esquire

Crawford County and surrounding counties are the home to some of the most valuable hardwood timber in the world. Red Oak, Hard Maple and especially Black Cherry are among the most valuable trees.

Everyone owning timber should make every effort to protect the timber and themselves from losses to the same. Some of the losses are caused by nature, but most are caused by man.

Successful forestry is a science, like everything else. While most people would think twice about operating on themselves without a medical professional, many people do not think it is necessary or worthwhile to involve a professional in their timber operations.

Everyone owning timberland should contact the local forester from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at 814/332-6875, to have that forester walk your property and to offer suggestions for timber stand improvement, timber sales and the like.

Landowners selling timber without any assistance are at the mercy of the buyer and generally will receive less, as opposed to more money.

To manage an actual timber sale, I suggest that a consulting forester be brought in to manage the sale to ensure that the least amount of damage is done to the property and the greatest amount of economic return is given to the landowner. Even smaller log jobs justify the cost of a consulting forester.

Landowners should also be very diligent about inspecting their boundary lines and if a person becomes aware of a log job about to commence, landowners should pro-actively mark their boundaries, make every effort to meet with the skidder operator and cutters, and otherwise point out where the boundary lines are.

It is much easier to stop the accidental or intentional theft of trees before it happens, than to receive compensation after it happens.

Pennsylvania does have a civil statute in place relating to damages and actions for conversion of timber. Conversion simply means that a tree is cut and taken by one who is not entitled to cut and take that tree.

The general rule found in 42 Pa.C.S.A.§8311, indicates that a person who cuts or removes the timber of another person without the consent of that person shall be liable to that person in a civil action for an amount of damages equal to the usual and customary costs of establishing the value of the timber cut or removed, and of complying with the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Regulations, and damages for the actual timber removed.

The damages for the actual timber removed fall into three categories:

  1. If the landowner can prove that the timber cut or removed was deliberately done, the landowner is entitled to three times the market value of the timber.
  2. If the landowner can prove that the removal of the timber was not deliberate, but was negligent, the landowner is entitled to two times the market value of the timber.
  3. If the person who cut the same had a reasonable basis to believe that he was not on somebody else’s land, then the landowner is only entitled to the market value of the timber cut.

One of the problems with this law is that although you may be entitled to the value, twice the value or three times the value of the timber, it is the value the date it was cut. In other words, you don’t get future value losses.

Pennsylvania also has a criminal statute found in 18 Pa.C.S.§1107 which provides that anyone convicted for the theft of standing timber shall, in addition to any other sentence imposed, be sentenced to pay the owner of the timber restitution in an amount twice the value of the timber taken.

Even though all these remedies exist, it is very traumatic to most people if somebody removes even one of their trees. Accordingly, be smart, be pro-active, keep your boundary lines marked, if you hear any equipment running, check it out before it is too late.

Timber harvested in Crawford County and surrounding counties is shipped all over the world for a variety of high-end uses from furniture, Fender guitars, flooring, Louisville Slugger Baseball Bats, and the like.

Finally, as in any discipline, education will help you make better decisions. I would suggest joining the Northwest Pennsylvania Woodland Association (NWPWA), a local group which provides educational and interesting programs on all facets of woodland ownership.

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