Months-long investigation leads to arrest of suspected  burl poacher

A ranger measures the cut in a tree where the suspect rem over a burl. Photo from RNSP


Redwood National and State Parks

ORICK – While on routine patrol in January, law enforcement rangers from Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) located a redwood poaching site inside the park boundaries. It was an old-growth redwood with massive chunks cut out from the base of the tree.

During the ensuing investigation, rangers identified a suspect in the nearby town of Orick. Rangers were able to obtain enough information during the investigation to obtain a search warrant for the suspect’s residence.

On March 27, law enforcement rangers served a search warrant in Orick. During the service of the search warrant multiple pieces of old-growth redwood were discovered matching the poaching site. Rangers also discovered methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, illegal weapons and various items of stolen property.

Derek Alwin Hughes

The 35-year-old suspect, Derek Alwin Hughes, of Orick was subsequently arrested. Hughes was booked into the county jail on suspicion of  vandalism, receiving stolen property, grand theft, possession of metal knuckles, possession of methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia.

In early May, rangers transported the redwood found during the search warrant to the poaching site. They were able to determine that redwood found at the residence came from the poaching site.

Criminal charges are pending. The investigation is still open.

Redwood National and State Parks contains 133,000 acres of federal and state land in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Nearly 39 percent of the remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world is found within RNSP. The parks have experienced an increase in the illegal cutting and theft of old-growth coast redwood burls in recent years.

Burl poaching involves the cutting of burls from both live and dead trees, felling of living old-growth redwood trees to access burls from higher up the stem, and the cutting of down logs for ornamental furniture, veneer and souvenirs.

This uncontrolled and illegitimate harvesting of burls directly threatens individual old-growth redwoods, the prime resource of RNSP, a designated World Heritage Site, and includes related impacts to the surrounding ecosystem, threatened and endangered species and the parks’ scenic values.

Redwood National and State Parks urges anyone with information regarding this case or any redwood poaching within the parks to contact the RNSP anonymous tip line at (707) 465-7353.


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