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California redwoods being poached as a source for drug money

By Karen Graham     Mar 6, 2014 in Environment
Criminals and drug users are entering the California National and State parks at night and poaching redwood burls and other knotty growths from the world's tallest trees, some nearly 2,000-years old.
Rangers at Redwood National and State Park have had to take desperate measures this past week in an effort to put a stop to the illegal poaching of wood from the giant redwood trees, considered national treasures.
As of March 1, 2014, a 10 mile stretch of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through the redwood park will be closed from sunset to sunrise in an effort to protect this living treasure from poaching and damage. The park service has also added extra shifts and increased their patrols of the park.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias taken on August 20  2011 
Fish Camp  California  US
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias taken on August 20, 2011, Fish Camp, California, US
Some of the redwoods in the park are close to 2,000 years old, and are some of the tallest trees on earth, reaching up to 379 feet into the sky. These coastal redwoods occupy a thin strip of land 470 miles in length along the Pacific coast of North America, from the extreme southwestern part of Oregon, reaching down to a southern grove of redwoods in Monterey, California.
One law enforcement Ranger, Laura Denny said on Tuesday that poachers have been coming into the forest at night with their chainsaws and ATV's with increasing frequency lately. "When I interview suspects, that is the (reason) they say: their addiction to drugs and they can't find jobs," she said.
Poachers, mainly drug addicts and people with criminal records, have been sneaking into the park at night and hauling off burls, (knotted pieces of wood that protrude from the trunks), and chunks they have chopped off of the massive trees. These poachers are using the money earned from the sale of the redwood pieces as an alternative way to support their habits.
The illegally poached redwood can sell for as much as $2 to $3 a pound, says Lorin Sandburg from Oregon. Sandburg is a licensed dealer in redwood who occasionally goes to Northern California to buy redwood burls, but all the trees with really good burls are now on protected public lands.
Finished redwood dining-room tables can go for as much as $1,300 on E-Bay. "I don't buy them unless they have proof of where they got it," Sandburg said. "I've got to have a paper trial. If there's not a paper trial, it can stay in their yard."
Burl poachers are very difficult to catch, and while charges can be a felony, resulting in prison time, most convictions usually end up as misdemeanors with only a fine. Law enforcement rangers have been following up on the theft of a massive burl from a redwood near the mouth of the Klamath River. The removal of the burl left an open wound measuring 8 feet by 10 feet.
People and horses on a downed redwood. Circa-1900. Comment by David C. Foster: Unknown Photo History...
People and horses on a downed redwood. Circa-1900. Comment by David C. Foster: Unknown Photo History. I'm fairly certain the tree was a Coast Redwood (Sequoia semperviren) or a Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) from Central to Northern California or Oregon. I wish this one was still standing. The bark has already been stripped off of it.
David C. Foster
Only about five percent of the old growth since the time of western settlement are still standing today. Logging had decimated almost 90 percent of the original redwood forests by 1960, and it wasn't until after a lot of controversy and even more compromise with timber companies that Congress authorized the establishment of the Redwood National Park in 1968.
It is an awe-inspiring experience to gaze upon the giant redwoods, and even more amazing to touch one of these ancient trees. They truly are a treasure, belonging to everyone, a living species from the past.
More about redwoods, California, Endangered species, National treasure, Furniture
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