Under the veil of night, poachers are hacking off huge chunks out of the base of America’s famed redwood trees.
What the thieves are after is the burl from the 2000-year-old redwoods in Redwood National and State Parks in California. The wood is then sold for up to thousands of dollars on the black market to make furniture, bowls and, sadly, souvenirs.
“We’ve seen a peaked increase [of theft and damage],” says Candace Tinkler, chief of interpretation and education at Redwood National Park. “Unfortunately I feel that it’s more than we can keep track of.”
“The distribution goes beyond what we could have imagined. There’s a black market for this stuff, and it goes well beyond California borders,” she added.
Poaching poses a huge threat to the survival of the trees because the bark acts as an immune system. When large pieces of bark are damaged or removed, the redwoods are left exposed to insect infestation. They are also susceptible to wildfire without the flame-resistant properties of the bark.
Officials have closed eight miles of roadway through the forest at night in an effort to curb the illegal poaching. “When you take away the burl and leave an open scar, it’s similar to me having a major cut on my leg and I left it exposed,” Tinkler explained. “Now I’m exposed to other infections.”
People come from all over the world to see the redwoods, which is why park rangers take the job of protecting and preserving these beautiful trees very seriously.
“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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