Under the cover of night along the Northern California coast, poachers with chainsaws and ATVs have been chipping away at the old-growth forests of Redwood National and State Parks. Most of them are drug addicts looking for a buck, officials say. On Saturday, the National Park Service began closing the heavily trodden Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in an attempt to hinder the thieves, reports the Seattle Times.
What they are stealing is called burl, the knobby lower part of the tree that eventually sprouts when the gargantuan tree dies. Cutting off the burl doesn’t immediately kill the tree, but it prevents future forest growth. What’s worse: The precious burl, which they are cutting from trees that can live to be 2,000 years old, is used for decorative clocks and coffee tables.
These items are worth a ton of dough. High-quality lacy-grained wood will go for two to three bucks a pound. Dining room tables are being offered for $1,300 on eBay, the AP reports.
"Originally there were two million acres of old-growth forest that spanned the coast of Northern California from Oregon to Monterey," park district interpretation supervisor Jeff Denny said. "Over the past 150 years, 95 percent of that original forest has been cut. The only remaining old-growth forest in existence now is almost entirely within the Redwood National Park" and some state parks.
Park rangers have about 133,000 acres of park to defend, making it pretty difficult to catch poachers in the act. The thieves work at night, away from the road. Rangers hope the road closure will at least raise the awareness of park visitors so they question the source of slabs offered at burl shops.