Area man indicted on 2 counts of unauthorized harvest of timber

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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A Newton County man has been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of unauthorized harvest of timber.

Brian Christopher Martin, 42, of Newton, is accused of acquiring timber from two properties in Newton County and selling it to a sawmill without the owners’ knowledge.

Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement investigators were notified by the mill operator, who became suspicious of the origin of the timber.

An investigation determined Martin cut more than $900 of timber from one property and more than $1,660 of timber from a second property in early 2022, according to Jarred Lemmon, Texas A&M Forest Service assistant chief of law enforcement.

Each charge is a state jail felony, which is punishable by up to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Lemmon said landowners, particularly those who don’t always frequent their property, should be vigilant in monitoring for unexpected activity.

“If you don’t have an opportunity to do that in person, you need to get to know your neighbors or find someone you trust in the area to help you keep an eye on your investment,” Lemmon said.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt; rather, the grand jury determined enough evidence exists to warrant a trial.

To prevent timber theft, landowners should:

  • Visit their property frequently.
  • Have someone they know and trust report any cutting on their land immediately.
  • Never sign a contract without checking several references of the buyer.
  • For the best price, insist on getting bids for their timber.
  • Mark all property lines to assure cutting on adjacent property does not encroach on theirs.
  • Utilize trail/deer cameras on their property that can record suspicious activity or individuals.
  • Always hold their timber contractor to the agreed-upon terms.

Landowners who are unfamiliar with selling their timber are urged to contact their local Texas A&M Forest Service office. Field staff assists landowners with the process of securing the services of a professional resource manager to help select trees for harvest, estimate values and find potential buyers.

To report suspected timber theft or suspicious activity, call the Texas A&M Forest Service law enforcement timber theft hotline at 1-800-364-3470.