This fast-paced, riveting look at timber poaching reveals why stealing trees has become a billion-dollar industry.
Deep in the thickets of North America's most ancient woodland, timber poachers are felling some of the last remaining old-growth on our continent. Redwoods, cedar, and Douglas fir trees are all victims of poaching. Sold on the black market, they end up in our homes as furniture, souvenirs, and firewood. Stealing timber is a lucrative crime: the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service values stolen timber at $1 billion annually. A community forest in Western Canada experienced so much poaching in 2020 it was declared an "epidemic".
Starting in northern California, Tree Thieves follows a group of poachers into the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest, tracking cases of timber poaching from crime to market. In a story rooted in the materials of our everyday life, National Geographic Explorer Lyndsie Bourgon contextualizes poaching as a side effect of unemployment and deep poverty. In her page-turning and compassionate account, Bourgon opens our eyes to why a person might choose to endanger the ancient, wild landscapes we have worked so hard to protect.
Lyndsie Bourgon is a writer, oral historian, and National Geographic Explorer. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, National Geographic, The Guardian, Smithsonian, and Oxford American. Tree Thieves is her first book.
"Tree Thieves is both an absorbing true-crime story and a fascinating examination of the deep and troubled relationship between people and forests. From Sherwood Forest to the California redwoods to the Peruvian Amazon, Lyndsie Bourgon illuminates the violent conflicts over power, class, and identity that continue to shape and scar the forests we depend on."
– Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction
"Tree Thieves is a deeply researched examination of the past, present, and future of our forests, told through stories of timber poaching. Lyndsie Bourgon shows us that we must take into account all the complexities of human-nature relationships if we are to have any hope of keeping our standing giants alive."
– Gina Rae La Cerva, author of Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food
"Tracking thieves, poachers, and capitalists, Lyndsie Bourgon masterfully takes on the role of detective shining a light on the complex and camouflaged world of the timber black market. The result is a meticulous investigation and a powerful testimony to the trees silently taken and the consequences of their fall that reverberate well beyond the forest."
– Harley Rustad, Author of Lost in the Valley of Death: A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas
"A fascinating blend of history and boots-in-the-mud journalism, which manages to dig into ancient and thorny questions about who really owns wild land and who is allowed to live off it. To poach of course means to steal. But is wilderness preservation also a form of theft, only on a larger scale? This book does what all great books should: it leaves your mind broader, deeper, and more nuanced."
– Robert Moor, bestselling author of On Trails: An Exploration