CALIFORNIA - Drug addicts and criminals are being blamed for the rash of poaching on California's majestic redwood trees. The thieves are removing burl and bunion growths from standing and fallen old-growth redwoods, then selling them for use in furniture and other wood products.
"The legitimate sources are becoming less available...and the individuals that are supplying the materials to the vendors are either drug [addicts] or have other criminal records. This is a way that they can get income to support their needs," said Jeff Bomke, California State Parks Redwood Coast Sector Manager, in an interview with Fox News.
Although the redwoods can survive despite the cutting, they become more susceptible to insect infestation and disease. The removal of the burls can also destabilize the trees, Bomke said.
"It's very disturbing — these trees are priceless," Bomke said. Only 5 percent of the remaining old growth still remains from the original redwood forests, he added. It can take redwoods 400 to 500 years to reach maturity and at full growth, they can reach heights of 300 feet.
Bomke said rangers at the Redwood National and State Parks are working with local law enforcement agencies and have stepped up measures to protect the trees, including closures of nearby roadways to deter the nighttime thieves. On March 1, the agency announced the nightly closure of the popular Newton B. Drury scenic parkway.
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