“An absorbing true-crime story and a fascinating examination of the deep and troubled relationship between people and forests.”
—Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts
A fast-paced investigation into timber poaching that 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, valued at $1 billion annually. One forest in the West experienced so much poaching that 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.
Published in Partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation
About the author
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.
“Bourgon’s engrossing narrative is a clear analysis not only of the socio-economic effects but also the ecological crisis tree poaching presents.”
—Quill & Quire
“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 and Big Lonely Doug: The Story of One of Canada's Last Great Trees
“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
"Bourgon’s thoughtful approach and sharp investigative reporting will give environmentalists, policymakers, and park lovers a new perspective on the consequences of prioritizing endangered environments at the expense of the people who live in them. Nature lovers, take note."
“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
“Tree Thieves is just an exceptional book. It's a gripping investigation into tree poaching, a remarkably compassionate study of the culture clashes involved, a thoughtful look at environmental values. But underlying all of that is Lyndsie Bourgon's lyrical reminder of everything we love and everything we lose in a world of vanishing forests.”
—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz-Age New York
“Bourgon vividly captures a hidden cat-and-mouse game playing out in some of the world's most iconic forests.”
—Sarah Berman, author of Don't Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM
“TreeThieves 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
“An astounding, essential read in our time of environmental and social crises. Tree Thieves exposes the astonishing realities of tree poaching and the dire consequences of excluding rural and Indigenous communities from preservation efforts.”
—Kirk Wallace Johnson, author of The Feather Thief and The Fishermen and the Dragon
“Absorbing. Part social history, part true crime, Tree Thieves is a riveting tale of timber heists plaguing forests from the redwoods to the Amazon.”
—Ash Davidson, author of Damnation Spring