Last week, the West Virginia Senate unanimously approved a bill making it a criminal offense to steal timber from state forests. Penalties of up to three years in jail and a $10,000 fine are possible for those who illegally help themselves to more than $25,000 worth of state timber.
While I realize that stealing saw logs from public and private land has been an issue for years and has become a serious problem, I still have trouble picturing how a tree heist would go down. But I doubt it would be anything like the following scenario, in which a masked man wielding a chain saw approaches a remote stand of state-owned trees:
Okay, listen up, trees! Get your limbs up and keep them up! Especially you, willow! And stop with your weeping, already. True, this is a stickup. But if you all do everything I say, none of you has to become a stump.
Come on, quit your quaking, aspen! You think this is a larch for me? You'd butternut try anything heroic, or I'll clear-cut your ash! No, you can't go to your pawpaw. Just stay calm and everything will be fine. I won't touch a twig on your crown.
Okay, ladies! I want all your firs, and don't give me any sassafrass!
Gents, I need you dig down and fork over all your buckeyes, and while you're at it, all your gum. What's that, old timer, back in the old growth stand? You're sycamore of my demands? Hey, you want to box, elder? Didn't think so.
You know, I didn't get in this line of work to be poplar. It's a beech of a job -- even a dogwood hate it.
But make no mistake. If you don't do what I ask, I'll notch you and drop you in a heartbeat, then cut you from top to taproot! It would really alder your appearance.