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Burl Thieves Attack Redwoods

A ranger stands near a grand coast redwood that lost its burl to poachers this week at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo by Marshall Neeck.
A ranger stands near a damaged coast redwood that lost its burl to poachers this week at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo by Marshall Neeck.

Last year, I saw a man ride a bicycle down the road from Ladybird  Johnson Grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park carrying a large chainsaw. I was baffled at the sight and now realize just how terrible an omen this was.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could enter the cathedral-like groves at Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) and steal wood from an ancient and spectacular redwood. Unfortunately, we are forced to imagine it because burl poaching is happening in our parks.

Last month, a 300-year-old redwood was cut down at RNSP so that the thieves could cut off a burl that was growing 5o feet up on the tall redwood’s trunk. Again this week, an old redwood was attacked and this time the base of the large redwood was deeply cut to remove the burl wood near the Tall Trees Trail along Redwood Creek at RNSP.

Apparently, there is still a market for  marbled burl wood which is used to create a variety of wooden products. The act of cutting burls off a redwood damages the tree by weakening the trunk base, making it vulnerable to disease and rot, and reducing its ability to reproduce by basal sprouts.

We can use DNA sequencing to trace burl wood to the source tree, so consumers of burl products should think twice before supporting this industry that may be using illegally obtained wood.  Please help us catch the thieves and contact Redwood National and State Parks at (707) 465-7335 if you have information about this recent crime.

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About Emily Burns


Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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11 Responses to “Burl Thieves Attack Redwoods”

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    Redwoods are bad

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    What is the wood used for? Furniture by any chance? And If I sent pictures of some furniture that this man has for sale could anyone tell if that’s the wood?

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    I believe that the poachers and also the buyers should be prosecuted. If there are no buyers there will be no profit for the poachers therefore they are equally guilty. I grew up surrounded by redwood trees which aren’t there anymore due to logging and truly believe in protecting those still remaining. It make me sick to see what these poachers are doing to our beautiful forests and maybe an eye for an eye rule should prevail when they are caught.

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    When the perpetrators are apprehended, it would be appropriate to nail them to a tree.

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    T Clark

    It isn’t about funding, it is about teaching people right from wrong. All of the money in word cannot compensate for the lack of ethics or values. Look at our government now, more $$$ than ever and still incompetent. The corrective action starts in your home with your children.

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    Can anything be done to help the tree after this has been done? :( That’s a pretty big hunk, but I know big trees can be pretty resilient, too.

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    Can you install a few cameras?
    Start Redwood Watch?
    A reward for evidence/eye witness leading to capture?
    Who sells burl? Use that DNA. Catch that guy.

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    This is what happens when you don’t properly fund your state and national parks.

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    Emily Burns

    Thanks Gale, the redwoods are lucky to have you watching out for them! Hopefully, we won’t see this type of crime happen again.

  10. Avatar

    Gale Steelman

    I hope they catch him. It is obvious that he is pretty greedy by the hunk he took. That’s a huge hunk out of the forest’s future. This is one “local” that will keep her eyes peeled!


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