Senator McGuire Targets Old Growth Redwood Poachers With Felony Charges

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire’s bill to protect the tallest trees on the planet – old growth redwoods – from burl poachers received a unanimous vote of support from the Senate last week.

Burls are the dormant, knobby materials that grow at the base of the tree’s trunk allowing the old growth redwood to grow new saplings, which is vital to the health of California’s forests. Poachers have been targeting these burls at increasing rates in California’s State and National Parks.

A burl produces a marbled wood that when cut and polished has a luminescent appearance. Depending on the size of the burl, it can be used to make anything from trinkets such as salt-and-pepper shakers all the way to large dining room tables that can cost consumers a few thousand dollars at local retail outlets. While some burls are small, others can weigh hundreds of pounds and fetch tens of thousands of dollars. Cases of burl poaching have continued to increase, destroying old growth redwoods and causing substantial damage to our cherished state and national parks. These devastating incidents threaten endangered species and waste valuable public resources. The state began tracking incidents five years ago, and there have been more than 100 reported cases of old growth redwood burl thefts from North Coast State and National Parks.

“Last year, a redwood estimated to be 400 years old was felled by thieves who wanted access to a 500-pound burl that was 60 feet up. Criminals are literally carving away these national treasures and this legislation would advance tougher punishment for those who vandalize these majestic giants,” Senator McGuire said.

SB 288 would empower local prosecutors with the ability to bring felony vandalism charges if a poacher damages, destroys or defaces a redwood tree without the permission of the owner. This bill states that the statute of limitations begins at the point of discovery of the offense. Upon conviction, the court may impose felony jail time and up to a $50,000 fine for a theft of a redwood burl. Currently, it is difficult for poachers to be prosecuted. SB 288 will give prosecutors clear statute to seek the maximum penalties possible to deter these senseless crimes.

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

SB 288 is co-authored by State Assemblymember Jim Wood and has support from the California District Attorneys Association; California Forestry Association; Center for Biological Diversity; County of Del Norte Board of Supervisors; County of Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors; Del Norte County District Attorney Trigg; Humboldt County District Attorney Fleming; Pacific Forest Trust; Save the Redwoods League; Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space District; The Trust for Public Land.