Senator McGuire introduces bill to protect redwood trees from burl poachers

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sacramento, CA – State Senator Mike McGuire introduced legislation this week to protect old growth redwoods -- the tallest trees on the planet – and put a stop to the devastating  practice of burl theft  from our state and national parks and California’s forests. Burls – the dormant, knobby material that grows at the base of redwood trees – are the primary method of redwood tree regeneration. When burls are hacked away, it significantly injures, and can actually kill the state’s beloved old growth redwoods.

Cases of burl poaching have continued to increase, destroying old growth redwoods and causing substantial damage to our cherished state and national parks, threatening endangered species and wasting valuable public resources. Over the past five years, there have been more than 100 cases of old growth redwood burl theft from North Coast Redwoods.

SB 288, introduced Feb. 19, would make redwood burl theft a felony crime carrying a fine of up to $10,000.

“Burl poachers are literally carving away our state parks and threatening some of our nation’s most beloved treasures – old growth California redwoods. We must act now to protect these majestic trees and to prosecute these butchers who are causing irreversible harm to our forests for personal profit,” Senator McGuire said.

The incidents of redwood burl theft have increased, and so has the size of the burls being taken. Poachers are able to sell the beautiful, hard wood, which is used to create decorative products and trinkets, at high prices. Currently, the crime is a simple misdemeanor with no fine.

Senator McGuire represents the largest tract of old growth redwoods in the world. The Redwood National and State Park – a United Nations World Heritage Site – is 133,000 acres, 40,000 of which is home to spectacular old growth redwood. Only about 5 percent of the old growth redwood remains from the original 2 million acres.

SB288 is co-authored by State Assemblymember Jim Wood and has already garnered the support of local District Attorneys and state parks representatives.

Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming: "I appreciate Senator McGuire’s rapid and well-reasoned response to the issue of redwood burl theft, which I hope will prevent irreparable harm to the natural resources in our national and state parks and other lands. If such crimes do occur in the future, the Humboldt County DAs Office will take full advantage of the legislation in dealing with offenders.”

Del Norte District Attorney Dale Trigg: "We are truly blessed to live in this unique part of the world where we are surrounded by the majestic Redwoods.  It is our obligation to the world to protect these treasures.  I applaud Sen. McGuire for his efforts to protect the Redwoods and fully support and endorse this legislation."

Liz Burko, Acting Superintendent, North Coast Redwoods District, California State Parks: “Burl poaching along the North Coast is a major concern to our iconic state parks. Cutting burls from redwoods can cause irreparable damage to the historic trees.”

For more information or questions, please contact Kerrie Lindecker, Communications Coordinator, at 707-319-3654, or email her at kerrie.lindecker@sen.ca.gov.

Photo courtesy National Park Service attached: Wildlife biologist Terry Hines stands next to an old growth redwood tree near Klamath that was gutted by burl poachers in 2013.

Burl poaching in the news:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/us/poachers-attack-beloved-elders-of-california-its-redwoods.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140306-redwood-poachers-burl-wood-national-park-crime/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/06/us/california-redwoods-poaching/