Story at a glance
- As lumber prices soar, timber poachers armed with chainsaws are cutting down trees across Vancouver Island, Canada, further endangering ecosystems.
- At least 100 trees have been illegally cut down since January, officials in the Six Mountains region said.
- Municipality forester Shaun Mason said poaching is not a new phenomenon in the region, but it has gotten worse amid the lumber pricing crisis.
As lumber prices soar, timber poachers armed with chainsaws are cutting down trees across Vancouver Island, Canada.
At least 100 trees have been illegally cut down in the region since January, and journalist Larry Pynn suspected the illegal act when he came across two cedar stumps and tire tracks, according to The Guardian.
“I immediately suspected that this is the work of poachers,” Pynn said. “These are clearly valuable trees and they were likely cut because of that.”
Pynn discovered the stumps in an area known as Six Mountains, which is popular for hikers and home to the Douglas fir ecosystem, The Guardian reported. This particular ecosystem has been further endangered by logging and development.
Pynn estimated the value of the trees at more than $800 apiece, adding that the fine for poaching would be equivalent to the penalty for littering.
Municipality forester Shaun Mason said poaching is not a new phenomenon in the region but that it has gotten worse amid the lumber pricing crisis, according to The Guardian. Mason believes the poachers prefer cedar due to the market value.
Lumber prices across the U.S. are up 308 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, according to analysis by industry trade magazine Random Lengths.
The costs have skyrocketed in Canada as well. Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders Association, told CBC in April that a 2,500-square-foot home could see more than “$30,000 in additional costs for lumber.”
But most mills on Vancouver Island won’t accept wood without marking, Mason said.
“It’d be illegal, but if someone had a sawmill set up on their property and someone said, ‘Hey, I could get some cedar, would you mill it for me?’ You know, obviously, it’s not on the up and up, but it definitely could take place,” Mason said.
Mason said the municipality has posted signs in an effort to deter would-be poachers, increased patrols and invested in surveillance, adding he expects the issue is more widespread.
“It’s happening all over the place. We just happen to have ungated, unfettered access, not that far from a main road or highway,” Mason said. “So we tend to be the easiest targets.”
Jens Wieting of British Columbia’s Sierra Club believes the government must enact harsher fines to curb poaching, saying what’s happening in the region reflects a broader issue, The Guardian reported.
“Maybe, with a change in perspective, people who might be tempted to make an extra buck by poaching trees won’t do it because they get a sense that it would be wrong — and that the consequences could be bigger and more serious,” Wieting said.
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA