The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 5, 2014

Redwood park closes road to deter burl poachers

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Finished dining room tables are being offered for $1,300 on eBay.

"I don't buy them unless they have proof of where they got it," he said. "I've got to have a paper trial. If there's not a paper trial, it can stay in their yard."

With few law enforcement rangers — and 133,000 acres of park stretching south from the headquarters in Crescent City, Calif. — to patrol, arrests are rare, Laura Denny said. She can recall two or three over the past 12 years. While charges can be felonies carrying prison time, convictions usually end up as misdemeanors carrying fines.

She is currently chasing a bunch that cut a massive burl from a redwood just south of the mouth of the Klamath River that was discovered by a bear researcher tramping the woods in April. The cut left a scar measuring 8 feet by 10 feet.

Over the course of weeks, the thieves cut the burl into slabs weighing more than 100 pounds each that they dragged behind ATVs through the woods several hundred yards to a road.

She found the slabs in a burl dealer's yard. After matching the wood to pieces left behind at the scarred tree, she seized the slabs. The dealer had paid $1,600 for eight slabs that he was going to sell for $700 apiece, for a total of $5,600.

"They are very difficult to catch because they move site to site," operate in remote areas far from roads, and even the sound of a chain saw doesn't travel far in the woods, she said of poachers.

She hopes that the road closure will raise awareness among park visitors so they question the source of slabs offered for sale at burl shops.

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Follow Jeff Barnard at https://twitter.com/JeffBarnardAP .

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