It ain’t easy being beautiful — just ask a California redwood tree.
Prized for their beauty, age and size, California’s precious redwood trees have increasingly become the victims of poachers eyeing them for easy profit, forcing park officials to close the gates.
In a press release announcing the nighttime closure of Newton B. Drury Parkway, a scenic route through a redwood forest in Northern California, the National Park Service explained that an alarming increase in wood poaching raids has demanded extra protection for the state’s treasured trees, forcing the service to limit visitor access.
“These crimes usually involve cutting burl and bunion growths from both standing and fallen old-growth redwood trees,” the service stated, noting that most thievery happens overnight. “The wood is then sold for construction materials, ornamental furniture, and souvenirs. This type of wood is becoming increasingly rare and the most plentiful supply is often found on park lands.”
The towering trees’ unparalleled majesty draws tourists from around the world, but protecting them is more than just a matter of preserving the forests’ allure. The trees can live thousands of years, are fire-resistant, grow taller than 300 feet and produce more and better wood with time. Recent studies suggest they’re the best trees for capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and may help battle climate change.
Burls, tumor-like growths on the outside of trees, are sought out for their marbled appearance. On redwoods, burls are often extremely large and high up on the trunk, so poachers will often cut down the entire tree to access them. Even when poachers leave the tree standing, hacking off the burls weakens the tree, makes it susceptible to disease and rot and hinders its ability to reproduce basal sprouts, the Save The Redwoods League reports.