Arrest Made In Redwood Parks Wood Theft Case

An ancient redwood tree badly damaged by burl poachers. | Photo: NPS

The Redwood National and State Parks announced Wednesday that their law enforcement staff have arrested a local resident on charges of damaging ancient redwood trees in order to steal their valuable burl wood.

Daniel Garcia of Orick, CA was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in California District Court in Eureka on charges of felony grand theft, vandalism, and receiving stolen property in relation to burls sawn off trees in the parks and recovered at a Del Norte County souvenir shop. Officials said the tip implicated another unnamed suspect who is currently in custody on unrelated charges. Charges will likely be filed against that person soon.

The arrest comes after an anonymous tip led investigators to the souvenir shop, where they matched burl wood to a park redwood tree that had been vandalized in April 2013. The law enforcement staff matched the burls' size and shape to the sections gouged off that tree a year ago.

The Redwood National and State Parks cover 131,983 acres of redwood forest and associated habitat in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. According to the National Park Service and California State Parks, which cooperatively manage the parks, the tree whose burls were found in the souvenir shop was badly damaged in the April attack. Several large cuts were made in the tree, the largest in excess of eight feet wide and tall by almost two feet deep.

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The parks' law enforcement staff allege that Garcia was in possession of those burls and sold them to the shop, whose proprietors are not considered criminal suspects in the case.

Burl theft has become a large enough problem that State Parks closed the popular Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway outside of daylight hours in March, in an effort to make it harder for burl poachers to operate under cover of darkness.

Burl poaching, which has grown significantly in recent years, poses a threat to old-growth redwood trees, weakening them structurally and providing pathogens and pests an entry point to the tree's heartwood through the saw wounds. As redwood trees often sprout new trunks from their burls, removing those burls reduces the tree's chances of vegetative reproduction, potentially leading to long-term decline in forest health.

And sometimes the poachers kill a tree outright to get the burlwood, as in the case of one 400-year-old tree, four feet in diameter, that was felled by poachers to obtain burls that were growing 50 feet above the ground.

The arrest caps just one of several investigations of burl theft and damage to redwood trees inside the Redwood National and State Parks. Rangers are asking anyone with information regarding the theft of redwood burl or wood from RNSP to call the park's Law Enforcement Tip Line at (707) 465-7353.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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