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Poachers targeting California's redwoods to feed drug habits

 

California's majestic redwood trees are in danger as poachers enter the sunshine state's national parks to steal its wood to sell for furniture.

Rangers at Redwood National and State Park are taking extreme measures to protect the massacre of the national treasures, some of which are thousands of years old.

"It's very disturbing, these trees are priceless," Jeff Bomke, California State Parks Redwood Coast Sector acting superintendent, told Fox News Channel. The poachers are targeting burls, a knotted piece of wood that protrudes from the tree.

Only 5 percent of the remaining old growth redwoods since the time of western settlement still stand, Bomke said. "To see them injured in this way is very disturbing. These trees belong to everyone."

Bomke said the poachers have generally been drug addicts or people with criminal records who look at the trees as an easy and alternative way to support themselves.

"The legitimate sources are becoming less available, private timberlands and private properties, for various reasons and the individuals that are supplying the materials to the vendors, are either drug addictions or have other criminal records," he said. "So this is a way that they can get an income to support their needs and sell to these other sources."

Although the trees can live when cut into, an open wound can cause pests and diseases to enter the redwoods. It can also destabilize the trees in the event of a windstorm, said Bomke.

"The redwoods are very resilient and they can heal but obviously the visual impact and also the adjacent impact to endangered species [is an issue]."

Bomke is working with local law enforcement agencies to help prevent the poaching.

"There's an effort to close the roadway in the evening," he said. "[It gives us] the ability to monitor closer this particular area."

Rangers are also taking on extra shifts and patrols have increased.

"This is a very high priority for our law enforcement staff."