Poachers in Wisconsin have been cutting down birch trees for money, and it's time for it to stop.
According to the Journal Sentinel, birch-stripping thieves have found a new way to plunder and make money off of private lands and even parks in the Badger State. Washburn County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike Richter said:
"We found out these people are not (discriminatory). They'll steal anything. We've had people say 'we didn't know there was anything wrong with it.' Some said 'we're just logging, what's the problem?' Well, they don't own the property, that's the problem."
The issue seems to be, of all things, the 'ornamental' market for birch bark and "poles" that people are paying big bucks for at places like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric, Craft Stores, and even Amazon.
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While it's certainly legal for property owners, or anyone obtaining permits to cut down timber, including birch, the trees in question that have been taken in rural Ashland and Washburn Counties, just to name a few, were found on private and even public lands.
Some five arrests have been made in Washburn County alone this past winter, including a man who admitted to police that he was in the area to illegally cut down birch trees. Instead he decided to break into a cabin and try to steal a generator.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden David Zebro stated,
"It appears to be all market-driven. The ornamental market people are paying a lot of money for these types of birch trees. We didn't see this type of issue a year or two ago, but it's certainly here now."
Three areas in Ashland County Forest alone have been decimated, including one property where 168 birch trees were taken and another where some 300 other trees were cut down and stolen.
Since the range of birch trees is roughly the top third of Wisconsin it's that part of the state that is seeing the most thievery. Add to that the fact that they are relatively short lived at 40-60 years, the only thing going for the white birch is that they grow quickly.
Left behind in the wake are stumps, stripped branches, and deadfalls that normally wouldn't be there, and all in the name of decoration.