California State Parks Law Enforcement has made its first ever arrest for poaching redwood burls on Redwood National and State Parks land.
Danny E. Garcia of Orick was arrested and charged with felony grand theft, vandalism and receiving stolen property on suspicion of his role in the removal and subsequent sale of redwood burls from Redwood Creek drainage at the south end of Redwood National Park. Charges are currently pending against Larry Morrow, also of Orick, who is currently serving time for unrelated charges, according to a press release from the Redwood National and State Parks.
The vandalism was initially discovered by a researcher in the park on April 19, 2013, according to Park Ranger Jeff Denny. According to the press release, the burls were cut from a 10-foot diameter old-growth redwood. The largest cut was approximately 8.3 feet by 8.2 feet and about 1.7 feet deep.
When the cuts were discovered, the parks monitored the area for over a month to hopefully deter any future thefts Denny said. In early May 2013, additional cuts to the tree were made and all of the burls were removed according to Denny.
Later that month, the parks received an anonymous tip that the burls were at a local shop in Del Norte County.
"Rangers followed up on that tip and the owner has cooperated with the investigation," Denny said. "He provided the names of the individuals that sold the burls to him, as well as receipts."
Burl theft is not a new problem for the Redwood National and State Parks, but it has been getting worse over the last couple years.
"The park has experienced small burl cutting for a long time, but in recent years we have been finding very large burls being taken from the trees," Denny said.
The parks are hoping that the first arrest for burl theft will help to deter future poaching.
"We certainly hope that that is the case," Denny said. "That people realize that the parks take this kind of criminal activity seriously, we investigate them and people who do it should expect to be caught and prosecuted."
Burls are a dormant bud material that develops into bumpy, bulbous knobs that can occur anywhere on the tree, according to information provided by Redwood National and State Parks.
Cutting burls from redwoods is particularly damaging to the rare trees for several reasons. According to Denny, burls are the primary form of reproduction for coast redwoods. Redwoods can also grow from seedlings, but the survival rate for that is less than 3 percent.
"Taking a burl robs a Redwood of at least one opportunity to regenerate itself," Denny said.
Cutting burls also strips the redwood of its bark, exposing the heartwood of the tree and increasing the risk of disease or damage from insects or fire, Denny said.
Finally, cutting burls as large as the ones harvested in the Redwood Creek Drainage can affect the structural integrity of the tree and increase the risk of it falling due to high winds, floods or saturated ground, Denny said.
In the last year, there have been 18 reported wood thefts, he said. That includes cutting burls and harvesting fallen logs within the park.
Redwood National and State Parks is still investigating multiple burl thefts in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Anyone with information regarding theft from the parks is asked to call the park's Law Enforcement Tip Line at 707-465-7353.