Latest: Northwest timber poaching increases

Forest Service rangers manage to bust some tree thieves — but most still get away.

  • A maple stump in the Capital Forest near Olympia, Washington.

    Courtesy of Anne Minden


The Northwest’s stands of enormous bigleaf maple and redwood trees draw poachers, who lop off redwood burls for use in furniture and cut chunks of figured maple for guitar-making. National forests and other public lands in Oregon, Washington, California and Montana have all been targets of such theft, costing the Forest Service up to $100 million each year, according to agency documents (“Busting the tree ring,” HCN, 3/20/17).


In Northern California, law enforcement rangers recently arrested Derek Alwin Hughes of Orick after a search of his home turned up several pieces of old-growth redwood. The burls matched a tree-poaching site discovered in January in Redwood National and State Parks, a string of protected areas that contains almost 40 percent of the world’s remaining old-growth redwood forest. Theft of coast redwood burls has increased there in recent years, and the investigation is ongoing. In a separate case earlier this year, Washington residents Mike Welches and Matthew Hutto were sentenced to prison time and fined for illegally cutting bigleaf maple in Olympic National Park.

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