Rangers Investigating Redwood Burl Theft
Crescent City, CA—On Monday, May 13th, National Park Service rangers discovered an old-growth redwood tree with a massive burl cut off of its base. The wounded tree is located near the Redwood Creek Trail, but on the hillside above the trail and hidden from view. This is the second incident of damage to old-growth trees in the park in the past three months.
The huge stolen burl that was cut off was over 8 feet tall by 10 feet wide, indicating the thieves used large equipment to both cut and transport the burl from the tree. Redwood National and State Parks law enforcement rangers are taking aggressive investigative and enforcement action and also seeking help in solving this resource crime. Anyone having information about the Redwood Creek Trail burl cut is asked to call NPS Law Enforcement Ranger Laura Denny at (707) 465-7750. A $1,500 reward is currently being offered for information leading directly to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
In addition to the fact that stealing natural or cultural resources from our national and state parks is a crime, there can be long-term damage done by defacing the trees or removing even downed wood from the forest floor. Large scars and cuts in the trees and removal of the protective bark weaken the tree and expose it to disease, rot and fire. Redwood National Park Forester Jason Teraoka is unsure whether the vandalized old-growth redwood tree will survive such a large cut. “While the tree may not die immediately or even in our lifetime, this large gash makes it far more vulnerable to a variety of problems than a healthy, unwounded tree.”
Tree burls have a purpose. A burl is bud tissue which remains dormant until some kind of damage occurs to the tree trunk, causing the burl tissue to begin to grow another limb upwards which sometimes overcomes the parent tree in size and age. In addition, burls often have root sprouts growing downward from their bases, helping the tree survive against high winds and floods and providing the growing tree with additional nutrients from the soil.
Stealing wood from the ground is also a big problem. Fallen logs and wood on the forest floor are a vital component of the larger forest ecosystem, returning nutrients and natural chemicals to the soil and providing shelter for wildlife.
Historically, Redwood National and State Parks have had illegal cutting of burls from park trees, but not to this extent and size. Several weeks prior to the discovery of this cut, a park scientist studying bears reported a pile of small burls lying on the ground that had been cut from park trees. Earlier in the spring an old-growth redwood tree was cut down in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to access a redwood burl. Roadside windfall trees are vulnerable to both large-scale premeditated theft and the stealing of wood bit-by-bit by individuals wishing to take home a piece of this world-heritage site. The public can help protect and preserve the rare remaining old-growth redwood forests by reporting suspicious behavior, helping with education efforts, and ensuring that any purchases of redwood or burl products are made from sources that can verify provenance is from private lands.
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