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Legislative statute revisions to affect Texas timber sales

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From Staff Reports

AUSTIN – Effective Sept. 1, 2023, members of the timber industry will be better protected buying and selling timber in Texas.

Due to a rising occurrence of timber theft cases, members of the 88th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1772, The Timber Asset Protection Act, to improve and clarify Texas’ forestry bill of sale laws, required documentation for mills and landowners and to apply the same penalties to fraud as has been applicable for unauthorized harvest of timber.

Current forestry bill of sale laws have been effective in the past, but over time, the changing process of growing, delivering, manufacturing and valuating of forest products, certain legal changes are needed, as well as adjustments to penalties for illegal behavior.

“The first laws dealing with requiring bills of sale were passed in 1977, and as the industry has evolved, subsequent adjustments in timber asset protection laws have been needed,” Rep. Trent Ashby, author of HB 1772, said. “This revision of our Natural Resources Code will ensure transparency and accountability in timber transactions which will keep our forest economy working and healthy for future generations.”

The intent of this new legislation is to deter theft by requiring a more transparent timber transaction starting with an accurate bill of sale from the forest to the mill and delivery documentation for pay-as-cut timber sales to the forest landowner within 45 days. This will require mills to provide an addendum to their documentation and a new or revised notice sign at receiving truck scales.

The penalties for knowingly providing false information to the mill or failing to provide proper and timely documentation to the forest landowner are now the same misdemeanors and felony levels as in timber theft cases of harvesting timber without permission.

“While investigating timber theft cases, we frequently noticed inconsistencies in chain-of-custody documentation, or lack thereof,” Jarred Lemmon, Texas A&M Forest Service Assistant Chief of Law Enforcement, said. “Buttoning up the requirements of the timber sale process with a few minor statutory changes would benefit all facets of the timber industry in Texas, from the time it was procured and harvested until its final destination after manufacturing.”

Over the past four years, the Texas Forestry Association petitioned for the changes provided in HB 1772 with targeted education, as well as through consultation with Texas A&M Forest Service for statutory and operational expertise.

TFA Executive Director Rob Hughes said the upgrades reflected in the Timber Asset Protection Act are part of the association’s mission of forestry education and resource protection.

“Texans enjoy many benefits from our forests which are 95% privately owned. This legislation will keep our forest products markets competitive ensuring healthy working forests for the future,” Senate Sponsor Robert Nichols said.

A summary of the timber theft legislation and penalties includes:

Revised bill of sale statute to include “information be true and accurate” with current methods of describing the property address or use of GPS coordinates

Someone who knowingly provides false information on bill of sale would be guilty of a misdemeanor which increases to felony levels

Bill of sale information retention increase from two years to five years

A new requirement of legal proof documentation from the buyer to the seller, such as a delivery receipt, within 45 days after delivery to a mill

Penalties for “unauthorized harvest of timber” now apply to bill of sale information and documentation from purchaser to forest landowner

For more information on 2023 Timber Asset Protection Act visit

https://www.texasforestry.org/ and https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/LawEnforcement/

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