ORICK- Burl poaching is becoming a growing problem in Redwood National and State Parks. Over the last two years several old growth redwoods have been illegally cut down, and stolen in the middle of the night.
"In 2011 we had four cases, the following year we had 14, and the next year we had fifteen,” said Brett Silver, the Supervising State Park Peace Officer.
Park officials said this is all being done to make money. Recently, a 400-year-old redwood tree fell to the ground after a group on unknown suspects tried to steal the burl.
"It’s for profit. People are coming here and taking these and they're selling them,” said Officer Silver.
Burl products can be found up and down Highway 101, mostly tourist stops filled with nick-nacks. But now more than ever there is a growing market for high-end goods made from redwood trees.
"Bowls can be carved out of it, salad bowls, utensils, and clocks. All sorts of purely decorative kinds of pieces,” said Jeff Denny, a Park Ranger for Redwood National and State Parks.
Burl is the knobby growth most commonly seen at the base of the tree, and can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. But when it’s removed, the tree is more susceptible to disease.
"When a tree gets stressed or damaged by wind by fire by severe drought the burl activates and can send new sprouts from that burl,” said Ranger Denny.
The redwoods are the tallest and some of the oldest trees in the world, and park officials said they are doing all they can to protect them.
"This can be a felony. You can get a fine or go to jail for this,” said Officer Silver.
To try and prevent more wood poaching the Newton B. Drury Parkway has been closed every night since the beginning of March.
(Picture Courtesy: Redwood National and State Parks)