Redwood Tree Poachers Taking Chunks Out, Threatening Trees

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 06:55 PM

By Jonna Lorenz

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Poachers are hacking pieces off of California’s old-growth redwood trees and selling them on the black market.

"We've seen a peaked increase (of theft and damage)," Candace Tinkler, an official with Redwood National and State Parks, said, according to CNN. "Unfortunately I feel that it's more than we can keep track of."

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In response to redwood poaching, the National Park Service closed the Newton B. Drury Parkway during nightfall starting in March.

“These crimes usually involve cutting burl and bunion growths from both standing and fallen old-growth redwood trees. The wood is then sold for construction materials, ornamental furniture, and souvenirs. This type of wood is becoming increasingly rare and the most plentiful supply is often found on park lands,” a National Park Service press release said. “Much of the illegal poaching occurs at night. The closure is a proactive step toward preserving our State's priceless natural resources.”

Eighteen cases of poaching have been reported in the past year, according to the New York Times.

The gnarly protrusions can be as small as a salt and pepper shaker to hundreds of pounds worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, the New York Times reported. Cutting them off makes the trees vulnerable to insects, disease, and fire.

Burl can be acquired legally through means such as private lands cleared for new development and salvage permits from lumber companies. But the global demand is strong, attracting illegal activity.

"The distribution goes beyond what we could have imagined. There's a black market for this stuff, and it goes well beyond California borders," park official Tinkler told CNN.

The redwood forest is an international attraction.

"We're one of those places that we have around the world that everyone thinks is precious enough, important enough, rare enough, that we need to protect it for the future," Tinkler said. "It's not just a crime against us as Americans ... it's a crime to everyone."

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