The law of 1897 says—

That any person who shall willfully or maliciously set on fire, or cause to be set on fire, any timber, underbrush, or grass upon the public domain, or shall leave or suffer fire to burn unattended near any timber or other inflammable material, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the same shall be fined in a sum not more than five thousand dollars or be imprisoned for a term of not more than two years, or both.

That any person who shall build a fire in or near any forest, timber, or other inflammable material upon the public domain shall, before leaving said fire, totally extinguish the same. Any person failing to do so shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the same shall be fined in a sum not more than one thousand dollars or be imprisoned for a term of not more than one year, or both.

That in all cases arising under this act the fines collected shall be paid into the public-school fund of the county in which the lands where the offense was committed are situated.

This law is perfectly clear in forbidding two things:

(a) To set fire to the woods.

(b) To leave a fire, such as a camp fire, etc., without extinguishing the same.

To inform and warn the public, "fire-warning notices" are freely distributed. To tear down such a notice is a willful and malicious trespass, punishable by a fine of $500.




To violate the laws and the rules and regulations established for the protection of reserves is forbidden, and the law says that such a violation shall be punished according to the act of June 4, 1888, which provides that—

Every person who unlawfully cuts or aids, or is employed in unlawfully cutting, or wantonly destroys, or procures to be wantonly destroyed, any timber standing upon land of the United States * * * reserved for military or other purposes * * * shall pay a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned not more than twelve months, or both, in the discretion of the court.

This law applies to any willful or malicious trespass, whether in timber, by grazing, destruction of property, or otherwise.


Of this trespass there are a number of distinct forms.

A person trespasses in a forest reserve by—

(a) Cutting and removing timber without permit.

(b) Cutting and disposing of more timber than is necessary to develop his mining claim.

Thus the claimant of a placer claim may cut timber on his claim to develop it, to erect buildings, construct flumes, etc. But when no more such structures are needed, or he ceases to build such structures he can cut only so much timber as is actually necessary to work the claim or develop it. If for purposes of digging away the ground, or similar necessary work, it is required to clear part of the claim of timber, such timber may be taken from the claim and used elsewhere or even sold. But where a forest officer finds that timber is being removed without such legitimate use and without such necessity to the carrying on of the work of the claim, and especially where he finds that timber removed in this illegal way is being sold, it becomes his duty to interfere, report the matter as trespass, and give notice to stop the work.

(c) Trespass is committed if the settler on an agricultural claim cuts more timber than must be cut in the actual clearing of the land for cultivation. But the settler has a right to sell logs which he cuts in actual clearing for cultivation. Forest officers will take care in dealing with such cases not to overstep their power and cause unnecessary hardship.

(d) Trespass is committed by violating the principal rules in cases of "Free use of timber" and "Sale of timber."

Timber trespass is punished according as it is committed willfully or by mistake.

The following is the decision of the United States Supreme Court:

1. Where the trespasser is a knowing and willful one, the full value of the property at the time and place of demand, with no deduction for labor and expense of the defendant, is the proper rule of damages.

2. Where the trespasser is an unintentional or mistaken one, or an innocent purchaser from such a trespasser, the value of the timber at the time when first taken by the trespasser, or if it has been converted into other material, its then value, less what the labor and expense of the trespasser and his vendee have added to its value, is the proper rule of damages.

3. Where a person or corporation is a purchaser without notice of wrong from a willful trespasser, the value at the time of purchase should be the measure of damages.

Generally, then, the willful trespasser pays what the material is worth at the lumber yard, mine, etc., where it is found, while the unintentional trespasser pays simply the stumpage price.

Forest officers report a trespass according to the blank provided for this purpose, taking care to have dates, names, amounts, and places determined with care.




Any person grazing stock, cattle, horses, sheep, and goats in forest reserves without permit; and any person driving herds of stock across such reserves, without permit, commits trespass. A person committing this kind of trespass is guilty of violating the rules of forest reserves and of destroying timber, by damaging and destroying the seedlings and young growth of forest trees.




This form of trespass is forbidden by special law (act of 1885), which should be enforced in every case.

The manner of reporting on this subject is prescribed by the form on p. 73.




Trespass of this kind almost invariably involves trespass in timber, which in this case must be regarded as willful.




Trespass is committed in forest reserves by doing any of the following acts without permit:

(a) Building of roads, trails, and railways.

(b) Construction of ditches, canals, and reservoirs.

(c) Erecting telephone and telegraph lines.

(d) Erecting, occupying, and conducting hotels, stores, sawmills, power plants, and other manufacturing enterprises, and carrying on any kind of work except as permitted by law and regulations unless performed on patented land or land held under some form of valid title. Any kind of trespass should be stopped and reported, and the failure to discover, stop, and report trespass will be considered one of the most serious deficiencies in a forest officer.

For more exact and detailed information as to the several laws and rules concerning forest reserves, see Compilation of Laws and Regulations and Decisions Thereunder, relating to the Creation and Administration of Public Forest Reserves, which may be obtained by applying to the forest supervisor or to the Commissioner of the General Land Office.