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Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America’s Woods

Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America’s Woods PDF

Author: Lyndsie Bourgon

Publisher: Little


Publish Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN-10: 0316497444

Pages: 288

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

Prologue: May Creek

AT NIGHT, THE treacherous curves of northern California’s Redwood Highway unfurl before the probing reach of headlights. With little warning as to what’s ahead, it’s easy to miss turnoffs, so a small truck navigates the highway slowly, inching toward May Creek through the pitch-darkness of a damp winter night in 2018.

Just after midnight, the truck turns onto a lush wayside. It tips slightly as the driver pulls along the left-hand side of a metal gate, the tires toppling a small pile of rocks. The ground is soft enough that the tire grooves leave a lasting imprint in the earth. The driver points the truck back toward the road. Then it’s dark again.

A narrow clearing stretches for about 100 yards—an old, decommissioned logging road that’s been left to rewild and grow over. Climbing down from the truck, the driver finds a short trail beneath his feet, each side of the path lined with sword fern and clover, wallpapered in layers of redwood bark, though none of that is visible in the darkness. The floor is so thickly carpeted with foliage that his steps are muffled as he walks forward.

The man is lanky, his hair buzzed short, and he wears a sweatshirt. He stands in the dark clearing, waiting for the truck’s passenger to join him. The only light shines from headlamps.

Both men start to climb a nearby hill, one toting a chain saw. They walk through a thick tangle of branches and forest-floor debris, arms brushing up against red alder and vine maple. They are not going far, only about 75 yards, heading east and uphill from the highway and clearing. There is no official trail here, no campgrounds nearby; any stars that might peek through the thick Pacific fog are hidden by a thick treetop canopy.

They stop at the foot of a large, ancient redwood stump. One fires up the chain saw and the high-pitched buzz of the engine echoes loud across the clearing. No one driving along the Redwood Highway would be able to hear the strained noises of metal teeth biting into the deep ocher wood of the tree’s trunk.

The trunk is about 30 feet in diameter and rooted at the edge of the hill. The man with the chain saw takes a short step down and leans into the incline. He begins to slice the base of the trunk vertically, on the side that faces away from the faint footpath. His work is meticulous and neat: he carves squares with straight edges. Slowly the trunk is cleaved into fragments, falling to the forest floor like a glacier calves bergs into water. The logger’s companion stands guard, and throughout the night the pair barely talk. Eventually they amass a pile of heavy rectangular blocks, some of which they push down toward the truck, slowly flipping the sections as they flop down the hill. They load the wood into the truck bed and drive away.

Back in the woods, the centuries-old redwood trunk remains with a third of its body poached; a gaping wound.




Prologue: May Creek


1: Clearances

2: The Poacher and the Gamekeeper

3: Into the Heart of the Country

4: A Lunar Landscape

5: Region at War


6: The Gateway to the Redwoods

7: Tree Troubles

8: Music Wood

9: The Trees of Mystery

10: Turning

11: Bad Jobs

12: Catching an Outlaw

13: In the Blocks

14: Puzzle Pieces

15: A New Surge

16: The Origin Tree


17: Tracking Timber

18: “It Was a Vision Quest”

19: From Peru to Houston

20: “We Trust In the Trees”

21: Carbon Sinks

22: In Limbo





Bibliography and Sources

Photo Credits


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