It’s strange to think that poaching would apply to something other then animals, but when money is involved people will never fail to figure out how to get it. But how lucrative is tree poaching? It can actually be VERY lucrative, and comes in many forms.
The first form of tree poaching revolves around privately owned tree farms. A tree farmer will a have a plot of land devoted to a growing a particular type of tree for various uses. For instance, one tree farm may be devoted to ornamental lawn type trees, when another might be set aside for Christmas trees. Depending on the size, a wholesaler might pay upwards of $25 for a Christmas tree, which can translate to $40+ on the retail market. Tree farms are generally quite large, and therefor hard to police. A couple of people working under cover of darkness with a pick-up truck could make off with a load of ten trees in a short period of time, later selling them and making a profit of $400. A week of successful tree heists could result in thousands of dollars straight into the pocket of the poacher.
Poaching from National Park’s can be even more lucrative. Certain hardwoods are quite valuable, such as mahogany and redwood. Old growth redwood is so large, and the wood so valuable, that one tree can fetch tens of thousands of dollars. However, it’s very difficult to get away with cutting down trees in high traffic places like national parks. Old growth trees are often fanatically looked after, and people sometimes camp in or around the trees to protect them. Thievery still happens to these trees, as the money to be made is often worth the risk. Poaching of this type won’t often hurt a private land owner, but trees stolen from public lands hurt the entire nation.
Recent consumer interest in various herbal remedies has also led to an increase of tree poaching. Just about any plant in any forest has some sort of use in the herbal market. The bark of the Slippery Elm fetches around $3 a pound and can be stripped rather quickly and discreetly. More often the not, the stripping of the bark leads to the death of the tree. The wood of the Slippery Elm has no value and is left behind to rot. It’s the botanical equivilant of killing an elephant and only taking the tusks.
Tree poaching can be a risky business. Besides the danger of being shot at by an angry land owner, fines can reach into the thousands. Some states allow a land owner to recoup up three times the value of the stolen or damaged property. If the value of the tree is high enough, it can also count as a felony crime.