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Adjacent Landowner Refuses to Verify Property Line

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From: Scott Swisher
Campbell HIll, IL
I am a logger and as a best practice I send written notice to landowners adjoining land I am about to log. The notice contains my contact info including phone number as well as a description of the harvest boundry or the marked trees in this current case. I am accustomed to receiving the occasional response and meeting with adjoining landowners to discuss their concerns and verify the property lines as everyone understands. Most people handle the situation with respect and courtesy.

In a current situation, the timber has been marked a by a professional forester and recorded via gps. I purchased outright with a signed contract. I have put substantial money down and in the contract the responsibility for verifying property lines falls on the landowner and myself. The contract is time sensitive.

The adjacent landowner whom owns ground to the west and south responded to my logging notification saying they were not responsible for verifying the forester did not mark any trees on their property, and basically said we will prosecute if you trespass, and to back off the property line "a sufficient distance." I understand they do not want me to trespass, and I wish they would recognize that is why I am sending the original notification. At the current moment, they appear unwilling to meet to discuss their line and they did not provide me a number to call them. I would like to discuss the harvest boundary and property line with them, but their letter basically indicated they are going to refuse to look at the property line until after the fact. It did not indicate any current boundary issues. I stated in my notification that I believe the trees to be owned by the landowner I am working for. I am sending the adjacent landowner a follow up letter as well as the wrongful tree cutting law so they can review it in an attempt to get them to meet with me so we can resolve the issue in the least costly way.

I have a couple of questions so I can better educate myself 1. The main way I have to verify the boundary is to meet with adjoining landowners to see if they agree, is this unreasonable to ask of the neighbor? 2. I do not agree with backing off a property line due to possible adverse possession issues, but am more the willing to accommodate assuming my landowner is ok with that. What would be a "sufficient distance"? It seems like a subjective statement. 3. I am interested in reading up in past timber trespass cases. Where would I go to find timber trespass cases in Illinois. I have had limited results searching the web.

Extension Message
From: Jay Hayek
Extension Specialist, Forestry
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Hi Scott:

Thank you for reaching out to Univ. of IL Extension Forestry and thank you for the extremely dangerous work you do out there in the woods! I have a great deal of admiration for the logging community! You've asked an outstanding question and I'll do my best to offer several suggestions.

First and foremost, let me applaud you for being extremely responsible and professional by reaching out to the adjacent landowners -- job well done! It is truly unfortunate, however, that the adjacent landowner has rejected your responsible professionalism and has taken an extremely passive-reactionary position to your hospitable invitation to verify the property boundaries.

Here are Several Options that Immediately come to Mind:

1). Hire a professional surveyor to verify and establish corner posts and property lines. Flagging or blazing property lines every several hundred feet costs extra money due to extra time, but it will be a heck of a lot cheaper than a lawsuit and associated attorney fees and court costs.

IMPORTANT FACT: A landowner is allowed to deduct the full cost of a property survey on their IRS income tax return as part of their timber sale expenses. I’ll leave it up to you to decide the fairest way to split the cost of the property survey with the landowner.


2). Consult an attorney and send a notarized, certified letter to the adjacent land owner; this will indicate that you’ve taken the initiative to avoid any and all trespassing issues that may or may not arise due to future logging activities.

Hope this helped and feel free to contact me directly at (217) 244-Zero Five Three Four if you have additional questions or concerns. Stay safe out there!

Best, Jay

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