A new Illinois law ups the penalties for illegal logging in protected areas.
The Rockford-based Natural Land Institute was one of the organizations that pushed for changes to the state’s Wrongful Tree Cutting Act. Executive director Kerry Leigh says allowing the owners of damaged nature preserves to recoup the full cost of restoration will deter illegal loggers.
Leigh says, “If the result of someone going in and doing illegal logging is that they now have to pay more, I think this is going to have them take a more careful look at how they're doing their work. And to make sure that they check legal boundaries.”
Seven years ago, the Natural Land Institute was the victim of illegal logging. 61 mature trees were stolen from one of its conservation sites. Under the previous law, victims of illegal logging could only recover three times the value of the wood they lost. The Institute estimates replacing the trees and cleaning up the mess the loggers left will cost nearly $440,000. But the not-for-profit land trust could only recover $165,000.
Leigh calls that “a slap on the wrist” and says damage to conservation areas is more common than she imagined.
Owners of protected areas can recoup the full cost of restoring their land now, after Governor Pritzker signed the changes into law this week.