A coast redwood damaged by poachers who cut out a burl from the tree.  (Redwood National Park)
A coast redwood damaged by poachers who cut out a burl from the tree. (Redwood National Park)

Officials with the Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County say a suspect has been arrested for vandalizing old-growth coast redwoods in the park. In March, concern over the poaching of burls — knobby growths, usually at the base of redwoods — led the parks to close a scenic road that gives ready access to the giant trees. Burls are highly prized by furniture makers and collectors because of their unusual grain structure.

Park officials reported today that a yearlong investigation led to the arrest of a man in Orick, a town about 30 miles north of Eureka and near the center of the park. They identified the suspect as Danny E. Garcia, who’s charged with vandalism, grand theft and receiving stolen property. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. A second, unnamed suspect is reportedly already in custody for a separate offense.

The press release gives this summary of the case:

On April 19, 2013, a researcher in the park discovered cuts on an old growth redwood tree within Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) in the Redwood Creek drainage. Park rangers responded and discovered a 10-foot diameter, old-growth redwood tree that had been badly damaged by the removal of several large burls. The burls cut from the tree were massive, the largest cut measuring approximately 8.3 feet at the base, 8.2 feet in height, and 1.7 feet deep (approximately 115 cubic feet).

An anonymous tip led to the discovery of the burls at a local shop. Park Rangers matched the size and shape of the cut burls in the shop with those taken from the old-growth redwood tree at the poaching site. Investigation by NPS Law Enforcement Rangers indicated that Garcia had been in possession of the burls taken from the site, and then sold them to the shop in Del Norte County. The burl shop is not currently under investigation in this matter.

Park officials say rangers are in the middle of several investigations in Humboldt and Del Norte counties related to theft and damage to coast redwood. The parks’ law enforcement tip line is: 707-465-7353.

In March, KQED’s Mina Kim talked to Jeff Bomke, sector manager for the California State Parks of the Redwood Coast. He said the damage to the trees — sometimes including simply cutting down giant redwoods for their burls — is “very emotional, it’s very concerning. These are World Heritage Sites. This isn’t just affecting the immediate park, but it’s affecting everybody’s future.”

Bomke said today that in addition to the tip line, the parks are working on setting up a reward fund. He added that the enforcement effort currently underway is the strongest he’s seen to fight a crime that’s been going on for decades. “While this has been going on for many years, 30-plus years, it seems that the intensity, frequency and brazenness was increasing dramatically,” Bomke said.

Here’s the audio of Bomke’s March interview:

  • NOYB2014

    Where are the tree huggers?

  • Humboldt Nicki

    I drove thru Orick the other day and figured the perpetrator was there. There are several redwood Burl places in that small town.

  • Darlene

    Why don’t they investigate the shops selling the burl? No demand, no supply. If the shops are paying top dollar for this stuff, they are at least as liable as the cutters. They are dealing in stolen goods.

    • deirdrebeth

      Partly (I’m guessing) because you can get burls legally, just not *these* burls.

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

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