Woodlot owners at risk

  -I know I'll have to sue him," says Ken Hopkins of Greenbluff, Wash., who is unhappy with a private logger who harvested trees on Hopkins' woodlot. The dispute centers around the price for trees and environmental damages from improper logging, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review. State officials in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Utah say many landowners have been enticed by record-high timber prices into making agreements with unscrupulous loggers. In Idaho alone, state inspectors found violations on one out of five private timber harvests they inspected. The crooked practices often start with scare tactics, such as telling landowners the market can't sustain present high prices, says Lou Torres of the Oregon Department of Forestry. Landowners are also duped when they don't establish beforehand the amount to be harvested or whether the logger or mill will make payment. Surprisingly, many landowners allow logging without a written contract, says Paul Klug of the Montana Department of State Lands. "Some people seem to think it's like mowing their hay or something," he says. State officials all recommend consulting a reputable state or private forester. A list of consulting foresters is available at states with forestry offices.