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TFS warns drought may give scam artists an edge

By Terri Richardson
Sept. 14, 2011 at 1:47 a.m.

The Texas Forest Service warned landowners of timber scams as extreme drought conditions persist in a tough economy, giving scam artists an edge for sealing bad deals.

"Texas Forest Service is urging East Texas landowners to watch out for scam artists attempting to swindle them out of their trees," said Holly Huffman, spokeswoman for the TFS in a press release.

Timber sale scams are usually seen more when the economy is struggling.

Recent scams have involved buyers using drought scare tactics to convince landowners that their trees are dying before pushing them into a premature sale, according to the release.

Then, the buyer harvests the timber but never pays the seller.

"While many trees have gone dormant because of the drought, state tree experts say it's too soon to tell how many will die and how many could make a comeback next spring," said Ms. Huffman.

For those making the decision to sell their timber now, the following list was offered to help do this safely:

Hire a consulting forester who can help you manage the sale.

Determine the volume and value of timber being sold, before the sale.

Bid your timber to multiple buyers and check credentials when bids are received.

Make sure you get a timber bill of sale, which is required by state law whenever timber is sold. (The bill of sale assures the buyer that the timber does indeed belong to the seller and ensures payment to the seller.)

Determine ahead of time how payment will be made and what type of equipment will be used. Know how long the contract is valid and if it requires the logger to use best management practices. There are penalties for property damage.

Also find out if the buyer carries worker's comp insurance.

The Texas Forest Service maintains a list of consulting foresters on its Web site or contact your local office.



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