There are days in life when it seems like nothing is sacred. Case in point is the disturbing news that California’s massive redwood trees are being poached by drug addicts and other criminals. The thieves operate in the dark of night, hacking off huge chunks near the base of the trees. The redwood “burls” are prized for their unique wood grain pattern, and the poached chunks can sell for thousands of dollars on the open market — or on the black market, which distributes the prized wood to buyers around the world. The wood is then used to make furniture, bowls, knife handles, and much more.
The practice has been compared to elephant poaching, and in an interview with CNN, Candace Tiller, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the Redwood National and State Parks in California says, “We’ve seen a peaked increase (of theft and damage). Unfortunately I feel that it’s more than we can keep track of.” Tiller adds, “The distribution goes beyond what we could have imagined. There’s a black market for this stuff, and it goes well beyond California borders.” The damage to the trees leaves the redwoods exposed to invasive insects and other infections, as well as fire (redwood bark can grow to 12″ think and is fire resistant).
California’s redwoods are located north of San Francisco, and are the tallest trees on Earth. Redwood National and State Parks comprise 133,000 acres of forest, coastlines, prairies, rivers and streams, and approximately 40,000 acres are old-growth forest. The park is a United Nations World Heritage Site, and the poaching and sale of redwood burls is considered an international crime. California’s redwood trees can live up to 2,000 years, have bark up to 1-foot thick, and have branches up to 5-feet in diameter. California’s sequoias can live up to 3,000 years, have bark up to 3-feet thick, and branches of 8-feet in diameter.