- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio lawmaker is pushing legislation to boost prosecution of timber theft in a move that has the state forestry association worried about overregulation.

The proposal by state Rep. Ross McGregor, a Springfield Republican, would require a written agreement between landowners and the timber harvester that specifically shows which trees should be cut down.

McGregor’s bill also requires a written record of timber harvested from the landowner, helps identify errors made during the harvesting process, sets rules for property owner cost recovery and creates a stronger method of valuing timber, The Dayton Daily News reports (https://bit.ly/PbiNXw).

McGregor says the current law is too weak.

“Right now, it’s a very loose standard and very difficult for prosecutors to go after, even though clearly theft has occurred,” he told the newspaper. He says illegal timber harvesters are likely selling it to timber mills.

The Ohio Forestry Association calls the legislation “heavy-handed” and says it would cause difficulties for its 500 members.

“We think it can cause a burden, particularly for the folks trying to do the job the right way,” executive director John Dorka said. “It’ll add a lot of regulation.”

Approximately 330 manufacturers and more than 36,000 employees are in the timber industry in Ohio, according to the American Forest & Paper Association’s website. In 2012, Ohio’s wood and paper manufacturers shipped about $9.4 million worth of product and paid employees approximately $1.9 million, according to the association.

McGregor said most timber harvesters are doing the work properly. His goal is to find “bad actors” while not overburdening the people harvesting the proper way. He said the genesis of the legislation was a 2007 case in which a logger was successfully prosecuted for harvesting trees without permission in Montgomery County.

Dorka said the bill could keep timber from being sold by property owners or purchased by harvesters because of added procedures.

Currently, 11 states - including Ohio neighbors Pennsylvania and West Virginia - have timber theft laws or timber harvesting regulations in place.


Information from: Dayton Daily News, https://www.daytondailynews.com

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