Opioid crisis is killing trees in Canada, etc (DIY firewood acquiring, selling)


EXCERPT: . . . Sometime during the previous few days, the tree had been illegally felled, and the wide end of its trunk abandoned. This was unusual—poachers usually take the “butt end” of a tree first, since it has the most wood—and Clarke speculated that the culprits would soon be back to pick it up. He photographed the trunk like a crime scene [...] “Literally, this is what we’re finding every day,” said Blid. “I’m sure it’s the same people I caught the other night too,” said Clarke. Trees are often poached from this area, and he surmised that the group he had stopped to question earlier in the week had been scouting for stands of promising trees. “Man,” Clarke said a few minutes later. “I just wish I could pull an all-nighter out here.”

[...] Over the past five years, the NROs in British Columbia have reported 2,300 forest crimes, mostly along the north and west coasts, with the most common being timber theft, illegal harvesting, and arson. Only half of these cases were investigated, and only 140 have made it to the courts. Last year, just over 70 timber-harvest “tickets,” or fines, were issued, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Poaching incidents are rarely investigated because by the time a site is discovered, the poachers are usually long gone.

Timber poaching is tightly tied to the price of timber products. During a spike in thefts throughout the Pacific Northwest and California last year, timber prices were running hot for several North American species, including Douglas fir. [...] For many of the poachers on Vancouver Island, however, market demand is only part of the motivation. More and more, timber poaching looks like a quick and relatively easy way for poachers to satisfy some desperate demands of their own.

[...] Many ... have struggled to adapt as second-home owners and telecommuters have moved to the city from the mainland, driving up property values. “Look around and it looks like it’s developing, but people can’t afford to live here,” McCormick says. “It’s a challenging kind of place.” British Columbia, like much of the Pacific Northwest region, is facing the intertwined crises of homelessness and opioid addiction. Last year, Nanaimo was home to the largest tent city in Canada.

[...] In British Columbia, opioid-related deaths began to spike in 2015, and in 2018, 1,489 people in the province died of suspected drug overdoses. In 2017 and 2018, 89 people died of overdoses in Nanaimo alone.

[...] Clarke encountered a man he’d previously charged with timber theft; it turned out that he was living in the nearby facility.** “He’s pretty hard up, and is honest and transparent with me when I ask him questions,” Clarke says. “He says you make money just selling firewood.” While it’s possible to make upwards of $800 selling 1,000 board feet of Douglas fir to mills or manufacturers, poached wood most often makes it into the system as firewood, sold for as little as a couple of hundred dollars per truck-bed-ful. Many poachers use tools such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji to advertise loads of split fir firewood, for instance—this wood can be off-loaded quickly, so the risk of being caught is low.

Timber poaching in much of British Columbia is driven by incontrovertible human needs—the need for shelter, food, and, in some cases, the next hit of the painkiller that has taken hold of one’s brain. “I don’t think [poaching] is going to slow down if timber value goes down,” says Clarke. “Those greater socioeconomic issues—those aren’t going away anytime soon, and with that, I don’t think the timber theft is going away.”

Forest crimes such as timber poaching are punishable by fine under the province’s Forest and Range Practices Act, and while those fines can, in theory, reach up to $1 million, three-quarters of the fines handed out from 2007 to 2013 were for less than $5,000. The maximum amount has never been imposed. “It’s sort of shocking to me how low these penalties are, because they’re not providing the deterrence they should,” says Nowlan. “The severity [of the crime] and how we value it in society just hasn’t penetrated to decision makers.” (MORE - details)
Really underscores the addictiveness of opioids if you would go out and fell a tree just to make money for more drugs..They're just trying to avoid withdrawal sickness..
(Jun 16, 2019 09:16 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: Really underscores the addictiveness of opioids if you would go out and fell a tree just to make money for more drugs..They're just trying to avoid withdrawal sickness..

Then there's cactus poaching, caused by a massive addiction to bohemian ornamentation in East Asia and Europe.

'Yanked from the ground': cactus theft is ravaging the American desert: In the last decade, cacti have exploded in popularity, becoming a mainstay of hipster decor around the world – from the homes of China’s growing middle class and the meticulous cactus gardens in Japan to the fashionable cafes of Europe. In the US alone, sales of cacti surged ... a market that is now estimated to be worth tens of millions. But rising demand has met a thorny problem: cacti are extremely slow-growing, with some species taking decades to grow from seed to full maturity. Hence, many opt for the shortcut: pulling them right out of the ground. [...] One of the major challenges for conservationists is that the most endangered cacti are the most vulnerable to theft. “The more rare or harder it is to get, the more valuable the cactus is to collectors,” said Steven Blackwell, a biologist for the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. ... "When I first started we rarely investigated cactus theft,” said one US Fish and Wildlife Service detective ... He has covered the south-west region for more than a decade and says the problem is increasing. “Now we are prosecuting cases involving thousands of plants at a time. The demand is so high that I fear we can’t stop the illegal trade going on.”

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