Redwood Poacher Druggies Pick Up Speed on Coast


Forget beer bottles left on trails, threat of campfires gone wild, or syringes dropped on sandy beaches. Drug addicts are stealing REDWOOD BURL from our forests. I’m not making this up.      “When I interview suspects, that is the (reason) they say: their addiction to drugs and they can’t find jobs.” (Ranger Laura Denny).  The Associated Press is carrying the story today. Her husband likened it (oddly) to Africa’s outlaw gangs who poach Rhino and Elephant tusk, induced by a bad economy, easy money, and a drug habit to feed.

(Source: Jeff Barnard, AP) “(Law Enforcement Ranger Laura Denny) is currently chasing a bunch that cut a massive burl from a redwood just south of the mouth of the Klamath River that was discovered by a bear researcher tramping the woods in April. The cut left a scar measuring 8 feet by 10 feet.

Over the course of weeks, the thieves cut the burl into slabs weighing more than 100 pounds each that they dragged behind ATVs through the woods several hundred yards to a road.”

  “Lorin Sandberg is a burl dealer in Scio, Ore. He occasionally goes to Northern California to buy burl, but it is tough to find any more, with almost all of the old growth that makes the best burls protected on public land. The good stuff with a lacey grain full of eyes will go for $2 to $3 a pound, unseasoned. Finished dining room tables are being offered for $1,300 on eBay.  “I don’t buy them unless they have proof of where they got it,” he said. “I’ve got to have a paper trial. If there’s not a paper trial, it can stay in their yard.” “

But the part of the story that disturbs me secondarily if not most of all is the solution:  Closing roads leading into the forests.

“The practice – known as burl poaching – has become so prevalent along the Northern California coast that Redwood National and State Parks on Saturday started closing the popular Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway at night in a desperate attempt to deter thieves.”

The prevailing conventional wisdom on every front seems to be curtailing the pleasures of many innocents to meet the troubles caused by very few criminals. Closing America’s access to our parks is an extraordinarily bad idea, but one that’s growing quickly.

What If the international drug cartels now operating in the Santa Cruz Mountains want to add Redwood Poaching to their exploits. Bit heavier per pound than meth and coke and pot, but who knows what lucrative markets for California Redwood Burl may spring up in Asia, like the insatiable taste for tusks. And where’s the loud outcry from the determined environmentalists tying themselves to  Redwoods to stop loggers.  Loggers at least left the burl. Which is the root base from which new growth springs. The Burl Poachers are taking the offspring of the Redwoods. The hope for new Redwood life.

Instead of penalizing a public hungry for the geographic splendors of this fabulous wild country, put a huge and painful penalty on the thieves when caught, and put the illicit burl dealers out of business and in jail with them. But damn! What are you thinking?’t close the magical Redwood Parks! 

4 thoughts on “Redwood Poacher Druggies Pick Up Speed on Coast

  1. Thank you for adding this tragedy to the many other that afflict our society. Not only men seem to love to kill one another but also to destroy the world. How tragic and crazy.

    • In fairness, there may be women in the gangs doing this, too. And it’s not everyone, bad enough, but apparently junkies chiefly.
      My thought, good friend, was not to add to tragedies, but report what I see as a dangerous trend to cut off access to our parks because of criminal activity inside our parks. I don’t believe that’s clear thinking. And we should all keep a sharp on it, both the crime and solution, and when possible, lobby for a better plan.
      Thanks always for your interesting input.

  2. That is a very tough call, Barbara. Since the forest roads are only being closed at night, I think it is a valid solution to curb this travesty. Of course, a better solution would be to provide more patrols to catch the burl thieves.

    bigsurkate, on a mountain top in Big Sur

    • I get alarmed at the impulse to shut down access, and I agree, the buggers should be caught, stopped. But I’d have felt ever so much better if the AP story had included a couple of lines like: Closed only for the next month….or….until regular patrols or volunteers are organized…or….Until anticipated state funding comes through by April….or ….Call the governor about Bill # whatever.
      It seems so punitive to me, stated as the only and lasting solution, likely to be used more excessively than less, or other solutions found. And fits in with what I believe evidence proves out, i.e., a real growing trend to close off public lands to the public.
      What would we do if Burl Poachers showed up at Pfeiffer Big Sur? It’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this up. We need to think about how to fix it if it gets broken, and never be relegated to two-bits-a-pop shining silver telescopes on a hill far far away, to see the once accessable redwood forests and tell little children what it felt like to walk among the big trees, before their time.
      Thanks always for your good thoughts and words.

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