Authorities say unemployment and drug addiction have spurred an increase in the destructive practice of cutting off the knobby growths at the base of ancient redwood trees to make lacey-grained coffee tables.
They say the practice — known as burl poaching — has become so prevalent along the Northern California coast that Redwood National and State Parks have closed a popular road at night to deter thieves.
Law enforcement Ranger Laura Denny said Tuesday that the size and frequency of thefts have been on the rise.
Park interpreter Jeff Denny says a redwood tree can survive the practice, but the legacy of the organism that could be 1,000 years old is threatened, because the burl is where it sprouts a clone before dying.
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