Forest Service Cops Fight Timber Theft
COLLEGE STATION – A special unit of law enforcement officers with the Texas A&M Forest Service spends their days chasing an unusual kind of criminal.
Officers like Josh Mizrany with the Texas A&M Forest Service, a state agency within The Texas A&M University System, focus their efforts on stopping timber thieves across the state who steal millions of dollars worth of trees every year. A serious problem, tree theft occurs throughout Texas, but thieves mostly are active behind the Pine Curtain of East Texas, where pines thrive and logging operations – legal and illegal – operate all year around.
Timber thieves come in a few varieties. There are the kind that sneak onto land – usually tracts owned by absentee landowners – and steal trees. There also are opportunists who go beyond the boundaries of legitimate jobs and take trees from neighboring groves. But most common these days are the grifters who specialize in fleecing older citizens who can be too trusting and not very knowledgeable about timber prices.
See a video about it here https://www.tamus.edu.
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said protecting the citizens of Texas and the integrity of the timber industry is an important responsibility that the Texas A&M System takes seriously.
Landowners should seek the help of Officer Mizrany or other Texas A&M Forest Service employees if they are unsure about potential buyers or offers to buy their trees, Chancellor Sharp recommended.
“You would never take a cow to the auction barn and not have a pretty good idea what she is going to sell for,” the chancellor said, “but with timber, nobody knows.”
The law enforcement division within the Texas A&M Forest Service started in 1923. The main responsibility involved educating landowners about burning. Since then, the responsibilities have evolved. They still work hard to educate property owners, but now the majority of officers’ time is spent battling tree theft. They also investigate wildland arson and provide training on wildfire cause determination.
Their numbers are few with only nine officers throughout the state who work on tree theft cases, so Mizrany and his colleagues are always busy and working on several cases simultaneously.
“It’s a problem. We are constantly working on timber theft cases,” he said. “I believe we are not even scratching the surface of what’s really out there.”
About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.7 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $996 million in FY 2017 and helped drive the state’s economy.
Contact: Laylan Copelin
(512) 289-2782 cell