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New England Forestry Consultants, Inc.
P.O. Box 370
61 Penacook Road
North Sutton, NH  03260
Volume 2, No. 1 Winter 2001

Protecting Your Investment from Theft and Abuse

In the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of this newsletter, an article titled Why Should I Actively Manage My Land? defined land ownership as an investment. As such, it is appropriate to follow-up this concept with information concerning the protection of this investment.

Timber theft and trespass has always been a frustrating problem.  It has become even more apparent with the dramatic increase in timber prices as well as the fact that many state laws are out-dated and provide very little incentive to deter timber theft.

There are various electronic devises available to keep an eye on your investment, but the majority are impractical and expensive.  By far the best protection is properly maintained property lines and human observation.

When discussing the need to maintain properties lines with a landowner, the first comment I inevitably hear is that they already know where their lines are and don't need to have the lines painted.  My point to them is that the painting of the property lines is not necessarily to help landowners find their lines, but to inform other people of the line location.  Most people lock their cars to deter theft, so it only seems logical that the same type of vigilance can be conducted to deter theft of their timber asset, which is probably worth significantly more than their car.

While maintaining your property lines may sound simple and easy to do, it is very important that it is done properly.  Improperly maintained lines can cause more problems down the road than if no maintenance was done at all.

The first and most obvious way to accurately identify your property lines is to have them surveyed by a licensed surveyor.  However, land surveys are not always necessary depending on available information.  The foresters of NEFCo have years of practical experience in property line location, and in most cases we will be able to accurately locate your lines.  Once the lines are located, they should be marked using special boundary line marking paint.

The painting of the lines is often where significant confusion can occur if it is not done properly.  The location of the paint tells a story.  It tells you on what side of the tree the line is located.

I encourage landowners to "be obnoxious" when it comes to painting the property lines.  Don't skimp on the paint and make sure it can be seen.  Make sure that a potential trespasser does not have to look for the paint, but that it jumps right out in front of him.  If a trespass should occur on your land, ensure that the defense, "I did not see the painted line," can not be used.

Dennis Mckenney

Dennis McKenney shown blazing and painting property lines.

A second protective measure is to get to know your abutting neighbors.  Make sure you both agree on the line location, and agree to keep each other informed as to your future management activities.  This communication is especially important if you are an absentee landowner.  If one of your neighbors is a resident, chances are high that he or she will be aware of any harvesting in the area.  Annual phone calls with neighboring landowners are a prudent and small investment to protect your asset.  These types of measures may also be tasked out to your managing consultant.

Also, allowing recreational use of your land such as hiking, cross country skiing, bird watching, and hunting can be extremely helpful.  Over time, the individuals who use the land for such activities will become protective of it and will certainly notify you or your consultant of anything suspicious.

Another protective measure that I always encourage landowners to do is to gate any access points.  Not only will a gate make entry for a timber trespass more difficult, but gates also discourage the continual problem of illegal dumping of trash.

Finally, the best protective measure is for the landowner to actively manage the land.  If the land is being managed, it is being visited on a regular basis.  Some landowners establish a long term agreement with a forester to walk the property annually or semi-annually.  the cost associated with such an agreement is minimal compared to the potential losses associated with a trespass.  By having a forester walk the property, not only are the trespass situations being looked for, but it also allows the forester to check on things such as blow-downs and disease outbreaks that, if not dealt with quickly, could lead to significant monetary losses.  It takes a very short time to destroy this asset.

Active land management is as the name implies: active, observant, participatory land stewardship.  Your land and timber holdings are an integral part of your asset portfolio.  Most people are willing to pay a yearly fee to their stock portfolio manager in order to protect and manage their stocks.  It is logical to do the same for your land and timber asset.  The timber, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and joy and satisfaction of land ownership are valuable assets.  A landowner can make a small investment now in order to maintain or enhance that value, or he/she can "roll the dice" and hope that that value is not destroyed.

- Tony Lamberton
Manchester Center Manager


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- Last updated on 13 February 2003 -
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