7 On Your Side:Landowner "Stumped" Property Timbered Without Permission - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

12/20/06-Wood County

7 On Your Side:Landowner "Stumped" Property Timbered Without Permission

"It was a single piece of land that has never been timbered. Had magnificent hardwood trees, it was just beautiful with large trees that were 125 years old... can't be replaced!," says Mike Thomas.

During a short stint in the hospital Friday, Mike's neighbors brought what was happening on his land to his attention. It's the same spot where he was planning to open an RV park.

"Now, who wants to camp in the desert?," says Mike.

He showed us his deeds and the survey.  He says, proof he owns the eight acres of trek that were timbered.

He also went to the authorities and filed a complaint against the logger for trespassing, destruction of property and theft.

But wood county sheriffs couldn't do a thing.

"I thought a crime was being committed. They're going on my property, they destroyed it, they're picking up trees and taking them to the sawmill. But they said if they're unknowingly doing it then it's not a crime and they can't stop them," says Mike.

The logger was there when we arrived on the scene with our cameras but he didn't have much to say.

"Like I said no comment. I got to talk to my lawyer," says Valerio Rios, owner of the logging company, Texas 3 Rivers Inc.

That's a good thing because the Texas Forest Service confirmed today they are launching an investigation, pursuing this as a criminal case.

They say it's difficult to determine if the logger trekked on land he wasn't authorized to because you're dealing with imaginary boundary lines.

"If this is the law in Texas, we need to change the law because they can come on your land while you're out here talking to me and when you come home it's all gone and you can't do anything about it!," says Mike.

For now, the logging company was issued a citation for reckless damage and destruction of property.

Rios was also warned not return to the property until the investigation is complete.

The Texas Forest Service says after its investigation it would ultimately be up the district attorney to determine if there's enough evidence to prosecute this criminally.

Meanwhile, Mike Thomas says he got a "rough" estimate that it would cost about $50,000 to clean up the mess on his land.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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