Patrolling Douglas County’s private timberlands is big job
Douglas County sheriff’s deputies Rick Held and Sid Greer have the duty of covering thousands of acres of private timberlands in Douglas County.
The deputies work under a contract with the Douglas Timber Operators, to patrol the members’ timberlands. They addressed members at their Thursday morning breakfast at Elmer’s restaurant in Roseburg, to talk about some of the problems they run into, during their patrols.
Held patrols full time and Greer is a half-time timber deputy and half-time Forest Service contract deputy in the Diamond Lake area. The two deputies cover a huge area in the county and are kept busy.
“They’re patrolling their timberlands, dealing with the trespassing issues, the illegal trash dumps, abandoned vehicles, and trying to minimize damage as much as possible,” said Douglas County Patrol Lt. Jerry Tilley.
The deputies deal with vandalism to logging equipment, and theft of resources and equipment, but much of their time is spent with a homeless population that moves from one site to another in the woods, to try to stay ahead of law enforcement. And the trash that is left behind, is not just an eyesore, it’s been piling up.
“The biggest issues we have are the transient camps and the trash dumps,” Greer said. “It’s amazing to me how many transient camps we find, and we also recover a lot of stolen vehicles that have been stripped, and by the time we find them, all that’s left is the frame.”
The deputies find all kinds of trash, but one of the biggest problems is an increasing number of abandoned camp trailers and motor homes, and in many instances, trying to get them removed from the woods has been a big problem. Held said people just walk away from them because they’re not worth anything.
“Right now, no tow companies will do it, it was costing tow companies up to $4,000 to deal with these motor homes and trailers,” he said.
There is a lot of travel time involved for the two deputies trying to cover the entire county, and Held said it’s not unusual to put 250 to 300 miles on his pickup in a day.
“The relationship between Douglas Timber Operators and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is extremely important.,” Held said. “This whole community is founded on timber so this is our way to be out there and police their land and there’s a great relationship.”
The timber workers’ eyes and ears are important to the deputies to be able to effectively patrol the lands.
“They are important, and 90 percent of the stuff that comes in, comes from a timber company employee reporting to us,” said Douglas County Patrol Lt. Jerry Tilley.
The cameras that the Douglas Forest Protective Assocation uses to detect fires, have been a big help for the deputies in finding violations and even missing persons.
“They have such good cameras out there and they have a lot of patrols out there” Held said. “They call us on suspicious stuff, their cameras make a big difference.”
Held said each season of the year, brings a different group of people to the forests, with different issues to deal with.
There will be mushroom pickers, bear-grass harvesters, firewood cutters, cone pickers, and archery and rifle hunters, some just going to camp out, and a lot of missing persons reports.
For those who want to go out camping or hunting, Tilley says, you need to know where you are.
“It’s their responsibility to know where they are and whose property they’re on. Timber companies don’t allow living and camping on their property, and those maps are at the BLM or Forest Service,” Tilley said.
With hunting season coming, Tilley said most timber companies allow hunters to go on their property, but if the gates are closed, that’s a good clue that you shouldn’t go on their property.
“If it’s gated, there’s a reason, and most of the reasons are the trash dumps, the trespassing, stealing timber and firewood,” Tilley said. “If people start respecting private timberlands better than they do now, there won’t be as many gates up there.”
“I think we’re definitely making an impact.” Held said. “A lot of it is educating people and most are fantastic people that understand taking care of the resources.”