Thieves in Our Midst
Recently in our area there was an incident of burl poaching in a National Park. People stealing on public lands is nothing new. It does seem to be becoming more prevalent these days though.
This case stood out to me because of how heinous the crime was. The tree that was attacked was a Giant Redwood. It was well over a thousand years old and several hundred feet tall. It was also in the center of a park designed to protect the surviving 5% of these trees on the whole planet. The thieves used quads and chainsaws to carve huge slabs from the base of the tree. I’m no arborist, but from looking at the photos’ I would think this tree fights an uphill battle to survive. Authorities found the slabs at a local woodshop and were able to track the thieves from there. The thieves were charged and convicted, but the damage is done.
I had just recently travelled through this area on vacation and as usual, standing under those trees I cannot help but to be awed. It’s a great way to get a little perspective.
As a carpenter I have always seen a bit of the duality of man in my trade. I know that I am personally responsible for thousands of acres of de-forestation throughout my career. I only hope that the structures I’ve created somehow outweigh the damage caused in gaining their materials. In my youth being efficient with lumber was motivated purely for fiscal reasons, lumber is expensive and no boss wants to see a big pile of useable scrap when you’re done. As I’ve gotten older though I think more about the larger picture, the resources we consume and their sustainability.
That’s why when I read about these poachers I know they aren’t like us. I just don’t believe that someone who has the patience and creativity to conceive of a project, then cut, turn, sand and finish it into a product could do something like this to a national treasure.
I’ve been a woodworker my whole life. My dad, grandpa and all my uncles are/were in the trades. So I’ve always viewed the woodworking community as a kind of family. I’ve met woodworkers from all over the world and there’s always a certain connection born of similar knowledge and experiences.
As you read this I am trying to promote in you a sense of community. I think that we all together have the ability and more importantly the responsibility to do something about this problem.
We as a community set the market for our materials and products. So I can’t help but wonder if we have somehow helped make this stuff valuable enough to steal? That’s why I worry about the market we create. I think we have a responsibility to make sure it is ethical and sustainable. The blackmarket is limited by economics like any other. It is a matter of supply and demand, if we refuse to purchase questionable materials then the suppliers are out of business.
So I ask for your help. If you purchase your material, be sure of where it comes from. If the price is too good to be true, ask questions about its harvest. If your questions are evaded, don’t purchase! If you harvest material, do it ethically and responsibly. We all know the difference between right and wrong!
Our National Parks and Forests don’t just belong to all of us, they also belong to our grandchildren. We who use them are all responsible for their care. These lands are a living museum, a testament to what this planet was like before we started making use of its resources.
So please, when you camp or hike, pack out more than you pack in. When you cut wood, buy the permit and use the designated area. Most importantly, only purchase material from ethical harvesters. You might find the material cheaper, but in the end the cost is much higher.