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Voices of Humboldt County » Blog Archive » Illegal logging in Redwood National Park

Illegal logging in Redwood National Park

Instead of being content with ripping off something that’s not very obvious – like ginseng – audacious backcountry bandits are cutting down Redwood National and State Parks’ namesake redwood trees. Yep, that’s right. Crooks are stealing priceless parts of American heritage, and what is even more disconcerting is that they are taking the very things that the parks were created to protect.

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“It’s a huge problem,” Laura Denny, a Redwood park ranger who has investigated the thefts for the past six years, told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Fimrite. “To get the wood out, they knock down vegetation and rip up the hillsides. They leave behind garbage and oil from their chain saws…and the wood they take is used by other species to survive.” The swath of stolen wood runs for more than 160 miles from Willits, California, in Mendocino County all the way up the coast to Crescent City, in De Norte County.

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Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Richardson Grove State Park, and Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area in Mendocino County have all been hit, Fimrite reported. The pinched lumber is used in redwood shingles, siding, flooring, and all manner of artisan wood-carvings. Since 2006, at least five men have been arrested for wood theft, Fimrite reported. The logs that were poached were an astounding 750 years old. “Given enough time and motivation, they will take multiple bolts (sections) off a single log,” Redwood Superintendent Steve Chaney said. “They either float them down a creek to where they can pick them up, or they haul them out by hand to the nearest place they can get to with a truck or in some cases an ATV.”  Ranger Denny said one poacher actually made a raft out of the wood he had cut to float it out of the park.

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“He was spotted by a ranger and took off, leaving the wood,” she said. “It turned out to be one of our typical suspects – wearing a wig.” Rumors abound of men making as much as $15,000 from poaching redwood. “It’s alarming, and it’s a shame,” Ranger Denny said. “It seems like civilization and the impacts on nature keep growing and growing and growing. All we have are these islands of hope. We are trying to protect a very small ecosystem so that people will still have a place to go to get away, but illega lly taking wood just puts more pressure on our natural environment.” But there is some cause for hope. Congress has taken up a bill – HR1497, the Legal Timber Protection Act – that will make it illegal to sell illegally harvested wood in America. More information on this bill can be obtained at this site.


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Comments (3)

Jeff MuskratJune 19th, 2009 at 14:28

With the threat of State Parks shutting down by fuhrer Swartzenegger, our trees will be in even more danger.

I propose that the people take back the parks, possibly build a non-profit to maintain them, and give responsible houseless families a stewardship role in protecting our most valued assets.

M. D. Vaden of OregonOctober 13th, 2009 at 18:55

Seems risky. Maybe there is more to the theft than just money, like adventure. But the money seems like enough temptation.

In Jedediah Smith Redwoods, I found a redwood with a smooth cut on the hidden side, where a burl may have been poached. New growth is curling over the edges of the cut, indicating that the cut was old though. Maybe up to 50 years ago.


drewOctober 2nd, 2010 at 20:07

Alot more redwood theft is going on than the internet searches show up. It was hard to find this story even though up since 2009, despite my searching for years.. Anyway CA laws treat timber theft as a $100 to $1K fine – makes is worth the risk when 2 x 4′s are selling for $15 per foot. PG&E hires Asplende and Daveys trees to cut down redwood for them as sub contracting, set up for fingerpointing, while all the other thieves know this and walla you have theft fest! Say goodbye to Santa Cruz’s streams and coast redwoods.