Story at a glance

  • Dozens of ancient alligator juniper trees have been illegally cut down since last year.
  • The latest incident was reported just last month.
  • NPS officials said the trees that were harvested may be hundreds of years old.

Authorities are working to find out who’s responsible for illegally cutting down rare trees in a national monument in New Mexico. 

The National Park Service (NPS) says an illegal timber harvest of ancient alligator juniper trees has been taking place within the El Malpais National Monument in western New Mexico. 

NPS officials said the trees that were harvested may be hundreds of years old. Dozens of the trees have reportedly been harvested and such incidents were first reported in 2020, according to The Associated Press

The latest incident was reported just last month. 


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“Alligator junipers, while not listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife threatened and endangered species list, are considered rare due to their slow growing rate,” NPS said in a release

Officials say a seed from the alligator juniper can take up to 18 months to mature following pollination and grows about 0.6 inches in diameter per decade. The growth of the tree slows down as they age. 

“A mature tree has deeply furrowed bark that is broken into square plates giving the appearance of alligator skin, hence the name,” NPS said. 

The tree species is native to central and northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S., including Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas. 

NPS officials are urging anyone with any information to contact the agency. 


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Published on Nov 30, 2021