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Tree poaching in BC - latest is an 800-year-old cedar in a Provincial Park
May 19, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Tree poaching: 800-year-old red cedar stolen from a provincial park is in the news today, but tree poaching is an ongoing problem in the province. Valuable decorative wood such as curly maple is sought after and stolen eg in 2009 from Burnaby Mountain Conservation area. Another curly maple. To identify which trees to steal, many others may be damaged. Here's a Picture of damage in a discussion where guitar-lovers feel accusations are unjust.
posted by Listener (38 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw news about this earlier today. Made me want to vomit.
posted by futz at 12:24 PM on May 19, 2012


> I saw news about this earlier today. Made me want to vomit.

I have copied and saved this phrase for convenient use in other Canadian current events threads.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:26 PM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Austerity: good for you, me, and the trees.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:28 PM on May 19, 2012


Also, bees.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:35 PM on May 19, 2012


The really fucked up thing is that Terry Lake, the "Environment Minister" responsible for parks, said it would be impossible to police every square inch of the province's park.

However, someone must have seen the tree being dragged out of the bush. It would have made several truckloads - someone must have seen it been trucked through Cowichan or Nitinat.

The Liberal's embrace of Enbridge, despite no tangible benefit for BC, plus their silence over the dismantling of fisheries and water protection in BC by the Conservatives, is just unbelievable.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


This tree was alive at the same time as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein. It saw gunpowder introduced to Europe and Armstrong walk on the moon.

It was hundreds of years old when the Byzantine Empire fell. It was a sapling when the Magna Carta was signed.

It saw Halley's Comet 11 times. It grew while Pluto completed 3 orbits.

But somebody wanted a quick buck, so I guess it's okay.
posted by jcreigh at 12:42 PM on May 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


This, plus Mexican cartels invading the Wisconsin northwoods parks to clear and set up dope growing operations, surprisingly disturbing news from wilderness areas these days.
posted by C.A.S. at 12:47 PM on May 19, 2012


To be clear, the issue is not that an 800-year-old tree was felled. That's business as usual in BC. The issue is that it was felled from a provincial park.

Now, personally, I think the former should be an issue, but, hey.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:52 PM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I get it, why people destroy things of such unmatched beauty. But I can't comprehend ever feeling that way myself about such majestic organisms.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:57 PM on May 19, 2012


Did anyone else read Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter as a kid? It's a novel about a boy who gets hired in the 19th century to protect the Limberlost Forest in Indiana from tree poachers who have sworn to smuggle several trees out of the Limberlost. Of course, in the story the Limberlost Forest is owned by a particular lumber company that is protecting its interests and not by the state. Still, it's sort of odd to see that tree poaching is actually a thing, and a thing that happens in the present at that.
posted by colfax at 1:13 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh this pisses me off. I had a girlfriend who grew up on a Century Farm, it had been in the family for 150 years. Back in the 80s, a couple of guys came up to the door and said they noticed there was a tree the fell down on their property, just around the bend in the road. They asked if they could cut it up and haul it away for firewood. Her father said sure, take it away. The next day he was driving into town and noticed the worthless fallen tree was still there, but a 150 year old walnut tree had been poached. It had been planted by their ancestor, the first of their family to own this property, so they could harvest walnuts.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:36 PM on May 19, 2012


"To suggest that anyone is able to protect all of those areas to the level that the member suggests is fiscally irresponsible," said Environment Minister Terry Lake.

You can't cut a tree down without making lots of distinctive "Hey, I'm cutting down a tree here!" noise. I wonder how hard it would be to electronically monitor the woods for logging noise and sound an alarm if the detected noise matched a pattern that indicated logging in a protected area? How many monitoring stations would you need to cover all of the protected old growth forest in BC? You'd need a noise sensor and a transmitter. And if a transmitter moved or went offline (perhaps indicating that someone was fucking with the monitoring stations), that also would have to trigger an alarm. A hundred BC park rangers might be able to do something if they could listen to the woods remotely.

I know, I know. It sounds wacky. There are about 30 million acres in BC to listen to. If each device could listen to the surrounding 30 acres, you'd still need a million to listen to everything. But if you could build something small and cheap enough, and if you were selective about where you monitored, maybe you could cover the places most likely to be hit by poachers and least likely to be monitored in person by a park ranger. If it's a giant 800-year-old protected tree that would earn a pile of money for a poacher, mounting an alarm on or near it to actually protect it doesn't seem all that absurd to me.
posted by pracowity at 1:50 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Little oversight over resource extraction that is carried out at a cost to the environment and public interest... in Canada? Who knew.
posted by parudox at 2:00 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A man has been sentenced for theft after poaching a mature broadleaf maple tree up to 120 years old on City of Abbotsford land.

If anyone would like to take the 50-year-old broadleaf maple in my backyard, MeMail me. Please. Please, MeMail me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:10 PM on May 19, 2012


Tree poaching sounds silly to some, but it's become a very serious issue out here. I live in the rural Pacific Northwest, not too far from the Canadian border. A lot of parks and private parcels have had trees poached.

It's similar in a lot of ways to the theft of manhole covers in big cities. The price for that much straight old lumber is through the roof, because there's so little of it left in the world. (The older a tree is, the denser the wood.) As long as something that valuable is just lying around, someone's going to try and steal it.

Many people involved in the informal lumber industry (the gray market of private contractors and pick-up crews) are also, in my experience, bitter and disenfranchised.

In their minds, they have lost their livelihoods because "a bunch of hippies think we should all use recycled toilet paper." And if The Government also wants to set aside a big park for a bunch of hippies to go hiking in, then where's the harm in filching a tree or two from the edges? "C'mon, there's millions of trees in there, no one's ever going to notice."

(Note: that's the attitude here. I disagree with it, myself. Just presenting it; don't want anyone to think it's my own opinion.)

The problem is that in all of the areas where this is happening, there is also a lot of legitimate lumber work going on. You see logging trucks on the roads all the time, and logging crews are always setting up shop here or there.

99% of the time it's because a property owner has finally decided to sell the assets and have their land logged for a pile of cash. Or it's public land which the government is having logged, which is a common practice (which a lot of people don't realize).

As far as detecting and preventing the crime, it's a daunting prospect. I'm struggling to come up with an urban analog. Imagine a ring of car thieves who had a magic key that could unlock and start any car. How would you prevent this crime?

Someone walking along the street wouldn't be able to tell if that car was being stolen, or if its owner was just getting in it and driving away. In order to stop the crime, it would need to be YOUR car - or you would have to know the car's owner, AND know that they hadn't loaned the car to a friend.

Now imagine that the problem is endemic to parking lots hundreds of thousands of acres in size, a patchwork of public and private lands, and you can see how the authorities have kind of thrown up their hands in defeat.

As with the theft of manhole covers, authorities are probably going to have to start pressuring the other side of the equation. Sawmills are taking this lumber, and are apparently looking the other way - or not looking too closely at forged documents - when they buy these trees. I'm more angry at the sawmill which took that 800 year-old tree without batting an eye.

But really what it comes down to is, times are tough all over, and everyone is fighting to scrape together a living. And if you're ever in charge of ordering lumber, ask for Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber!
posted by ErikaB at 2:12 PM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


wonder how hard it would be to electronically monitor the woods for logging noise and sound an alarm

Actually - probably not that hard - solar-powered, self-sustaining - why do I say not that hard?

Well some larger urban cities now have gunshot microphones which can fairly accurately triangulate firing positions...
posted by jkaczor at 2:22 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another potential use for deadly drones.
posted by found missing at 2:26 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well some larger urban cities now have gunshot microphones

I actually had the same thing in mind.
posted by pracowity at 2:27 PM on May 19, 2012


Could you chip a tree, the way you do a pet? That would help you catch thieves, though it wouldn't save the tree.
posted by emjaybee at 2:30 PM on May 19, 2012


FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin/ Sept, 1999
Timber Theft A Solvable Crime

generally search for timber tresspass forensics -- it's not impossible.
Just very time consuming and expensive
posted by hank at 2:35 PM on May 19, 2012


It is worth noting that the penalties in both Canada and the US for tree spiking are more severe than the penalties for tree poaching.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:36 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


In the southwest US the problem isn't tree poachers, it's "cactus rustlers." In the past the US Forest Rangers have occasionally had success using stakeouts to catch the thieves. However, recently they've adopted a new strategy, inserting tiny Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) chips into protected cacti. This strategy acts as a deterrent because, unlike old growth trees, the stolen cacti are prized for their ornamental value. The rustler has to deliver intact living specimens to their customers. If the rustler leaves the transponder in the cacti it is easy for both customers and officers to identify stolen cacti, but if the rustler digs into the cacti to remove the transponders the value of the cacti is significantly diminished.
posted by RichardP at 2:42 PM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dammit. This makes me so mad. What kind of callous person does shit like this? Or what jcreigh said.
posted by arcticseal at 2:54 PM on May 19, 2012


Probably the work of some splinter group.
posted by hal9k at 4:03 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


>wonder how hard it would be to electronically monitor the woods for logging noise and sound an alarm

Actually - probably not that hard - solar-powered, self-sustaining - why do I say not that hard?


It is because the Liberals do not give a shit about the environment, or the freight train that is climate change. Period. Just look at the sorry state of the forestry industry in the interior - they've had ten years to tackle the problem of a post-pine beetle forest industry, and their only idea is to log more old growth and protected areas in order to maintain capacity.

Even the "carbon tax" is a fucking sham; with so many loopholes for businesses, it does nothing to initiate tax shifting, and the Pacific Carbon Trust actually takes money from the broader public sector - schools and hospitals - and gives it to private companies for projects completed in past years.

And yet it is the NDP that is vilified for the "fast ferries". I say after working in government that I hate these unimaginative crooks.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:11 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody hears it...oh, never mind.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:12 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


CanCon break!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:21 PM on May 19, 2012


As far as detecting and preventing the crime, it's a daunting prospect. I'm struggling to come up with an urban analog. Imagine a ring of car thieves who had a magic key that could unlock and start any car. How would you prevent this crime? Someone walking along the street wouldn't be able to tell if that car was being stolen, or if its owner was just getting in it and driving away. In order to stop the crime, it would need to be YOUR car - or you would have to know the car's owner, AND know that they hadn't loaned the car to a friend.

You don't need to invent one. Bike theft pretty much works this way.
posted by dhartung at 4:40 PM on May 19, 2012


they've had ten years to tackle the problem of a post-pine beetle forest industry, and their only idea is to log more old growth and protected areas in order to maintain capacity.

I was driving with a friend on the Coquihalla highway a few years ago and he pointed out a strand of very young pine trees which had all become infected with the pine beetle. So, that's part of their brilliant plan. Replant with more fucking pine trees using the monoculture that was one of the big problems in the first place. ughh.

Hewers of wood and drawers of water until the end seems to be the government's only idea on all levels, both federally and provincially, for the economy in this country.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 5:06 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


We need more of this stuff to get into the news so voters will get angry at the BC Liberals (which has nothing/very-little to do with the Federal Liberals) and hold their noses and vote for the NDP.

Problem is, the NDP has been pretty badly vilified yet the Libs get a pass on their history of petty (and not so petty) corruption.

as for "wonder how hard it would be to electronically monitor the woods for logging noise and sound an alarm"

It's way out in the middle of nowhere. It'd be easy for freelance rangers to identify where these monitoring stations are.

Poaching monitoring stations might be even more lucrative than poaching ancient trees.

Whether this particular tree was harvested for "shingle shakes" (roofing material) as some news outlets have intimated, or if this is "business as usual" for extra income as have been intimated in this thread, my guess is that it might have been a commissioned thing; someone wanted some old-assed cedar wood for luxury furniture/decoration/art and commissioned an old tree to be "acquired" for far less than it would cost for a legitimate tree or to bribe people to make a tree available.
posted by porpoise at 6:29 PM on May 19, 2012


You can't cut a tree down without making lots of distinctive "Hey, I'm cutting down a tree here!" noise. I wonder how hard it would be to electronically monitor the woods for logging noise and sound an alarm if the detected noise matched a pattern that indicated logging in a protected area? How many monitoring stations would you need to cover all of the protected old growth forest in BC?

Maybe they could seed the woods with lyre birds, so that when someone starts chainsawing, the nearby birds pick up the sound and pass it along (like Mockingjays) until it reaches a ranger.
posted by chortly at 6:52 PM on May 19, 2012


What's shocking to me about this is that if you cut down a tree, it doesn't just magically turn into lumber. Drying wood so that you get lumber instead of a worthless checked or honeycombed mess is not the sort of thing that just any schmuck can do, and somebody who knows what they're doing will need to start cutting in the pretty near future.

If you want to monitor for this, why plant a station? This is a job for a cheap assed semi-antonymous UAV. Or make fake monitoring stations that only call home if someone screws with them.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:17 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tree poachers destroying beautiful, centuries-old trees on public property. Metal thieves stealing brass plaques from historic monuments, copper wire from park electrical systems, and bronze flower vases from cemeteries. All for pennies compared to the real value of the stolen object.

No level of need justifies this kind of vandalism. It takes away from society as a whole while providing minimal benefit to the perpetrator.

I get a little Gilbert & Sullivan in these cases: let the punishment fit the crime. In this case, I'd say the detriment to society equates to a loss of memory and/or a loss of enjoyment. The darker side of me says loss of memory equals lobotomy, and the loss of enjoyment equates to loss of enjoyment of thumbs.

Boy, this level of selfishness makes me cranky.
posted by Graygorey at 9:20 PM on May 19, 2012


feloniousmonk writes "Austerity: good for you, me, and the trees."

Also highway safety, 1 in 4 commercial vehicle inspector positions are currently unfilled. And truck traffic is up 50% in the last decade o boot.

KokuRyu writes "The really fucked up thing is that Terry Lake, the 'Environment Minister' responsible for parks, said it would be impossible to police every square inch of the province's park."

Terry Lake is pretty well every unsavoury description normally assosicated politicians; has been ever since he was mayor of Kamloops. And he's a laughably bad environment minister who can't even support at the provincial level the minor environment win (pesticide regulation) he managed as mayor of Kamloops (and lobbied the provincial government to make provincial)

ErikaB writes "I'm more angry at the sawmill which took that 800 year-old tree without batting an eye. "

If the tree was cut up for shingles you don't need a mill; just a chain saw, froe and mallet (hand cut shakes are worth more). Or a simple to construct semi automatic shingle cutter. Hell a portable band saw mill is pretty cheap (starting at about the price of a small car) and you could sell it after you were done to recoup your capital if you wanted boards instead of shakes.

charlie don't surf writes "It is worth noting that the penalties in both Canada and the US for tree spiking are more severe than the penalties for tree poaching."

Tree spiking is a potentially lethal risk to humans for years and decades after the spiking. It's reckless endangerment of uninvolved parties.
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 PM on May 19, 2012


Actually, Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, from the third article,

The officers were in the area investigating a report of illegal tree cutting made to the Ministry Forests in December 2010, said RCMP Const. Cameron Kamiya.

"We were hiking up to investigate the theft sight and we pretty much heard the tree fall," said Kamiya.

"So it does make a sound."


That's one damn funny Mountie.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:32 PM on May 19, 2012


I've seen a ton of illegal redwood advertised on craigslist and moved via private party (and yes I told the appropriate authorities and they followed up). Still any time there's a big storm a bunch of people will be on there suddenly selling "stumps" they "found around their property", ie trees they snared and hauled out of the creek as the floodwater went down. There is a legitimate market in selling stumps but some sellers have been doing this for years, and they don't have that much property! So there's a pretty strong market for this stuff and given the amount of legally bought and sold timber it's probably really, really hard to trace once it leaves the initial crime scene.

Sustainably harvested timber is supposedly stamped and tagged and tracked from harvest to lumber yard. Ask for it next time, most places carry it. Most reputable stores, it's all they carry these days which is why they only have a few species available. Specialty woodworkers go online to find exotic woods and hardwoods and all they do is take someone's word that the trees are legally harvested. Some are, some aren't.
posted by fshgrl at 9:46 PM on May 19, 2012


This makes me sick. There are some seriously fucked-up people out there.
posted by xedrik at 11:39 PM on May 19, 2012


The reasons for this are fairly clear though (maybe the same thing works in the US?): there's been a large net loss of jobs in places where logging was one of the base industries. In coastal BC, there's also been a loss of fisheries jobs. If people don't want to/can't move to another region, what do they do for money? My sister lives in Campbell River (Van. Island), and they've seen a huge influx of crack cocaine, meth and heroin from the mainland, because hey, bikers need to eat too. So now along with unemployment, they have a bunch of big-city drug problems.

At the same time, politicians are sensitive to the Randian anti-government rhetoric that's so popular with conservative voters these days. So there's less money for enforcement of conservation and environmental transgressions, and no new money for social programs. The original article I read about the tree theft said that there are now less than half the number of forest inspection/enforcement people in this region than there were ten years ago.

Unfortunately, the only way you're going to get large industrial "job creators" to come into rural areas is to offer major concessions like abrogation of environmental rules, relaxation of planning restrictions, or outright theft/destruction of natural resources (all examples from BC).

The sad thing is that many governments give reasonable value for money, and they employ people who actually live in the rural areas where this kind of problem exists. I have no problem with government being job creators and providing services where there's a benefit to the country (province/region/town) as a whole.

It's also clear that our federal government is now leading the charge to exploit formerly protected or restricted natural areas. Welcome to the foreseeable future.
posted by sneebler at 7:54 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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