Those ugly, knobby growths at the base of California’s beautiful redwood trees are actually quite valuable. So valuable that a suspected tree slashers and burl bandits have been arrested in Northern California for allegedly poaching and peddling the looted lumber from a tree in Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s site SFGate.com.
The men were apprehended after an anonymous tip that pointed investigators to a tourist shop in Del Norte County led them to the burls–luckily they had not yet been cut, designed and sold–which had matched cuts that were made in a mutilated old growth tree in Redwood Park. Both men were charged with felony grand theft, vandalism, and receiving stolen property, the Chronicle sites.
This case draws attention to a larger problem in the far reaches of Northern California where lucrative burl poaching poses a significant risk and damage to the Golden State’s redwood population, which relies on the sprouts from burls as a key component in the redwood trees’ regeneration.
Intricate ring patterns are what make these ancient growths such a prized possession, particularly for woodworkers, as they are often used to make products ranging from furniture to little hand-held trinkets, writes the Chronicle. The money one could make from this very luring trade is part of what has been enticing vandals to try and get their hands on the burly booty.
According to a Redwoods park ranger, a wood burl can be sold for anywhere from $200 to $2,000 and in Northern California’s rural areas where jobs are scarce and drug addiction is on the rise poachers are turning to the Golden State’s redwood trees for an alternate source of income.
Incidents such as these have reportedly enticed Redwood National Park to close a 10-mile road that cuts through a main section of the park at night, in an unprecedented move in order to deter thieves.