There may be a new black market cropping up just in time for Christmas.
Spider Lake resident Paul Christensen said people have been trespassing onto his property, stripping his cedar trees and leaving piles of rubbish behind.
“It’s blatant disregard for private property,” he told
The NEWS Tuesday morning.
The culprits are after cedar boughs, Christensen explains.
Cedar boughs are valuable for their fern-like foliage and decorative qualities. They are often used to make wreaths and garlands sold in grocery stores, and sometimes on the side of the street, during the Christmas season.
He said two of his “No Trespassing” signs were ripped down and discarded earlier this week.
Christensen said there are sustainable ways to prune cedar trees for boughs ensuring regrowth — but whoever stripped his cedars didn’t take that route.
“They limb them all the way up to the top, hack all the branches off and leave the top,” he said. “It’ll take years for this tree to come back.”
Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said a person could face charges of either theft for the removal of property or mischief for the damage of property.
“I’d like to see charges brought forward,” Christensen said, but noted it will be difficult to catch the culprit(s) in action on his expansive 70-acre property.
“This time of year, this type of thing can be a problem. However, if done properly it will not affect the tree,” said Foreman. “That said, nobody should enter private property to do anything for profit without permission or a permit.”
Foreman noted on Oct. 29 a Nanaimo couple was caught stealing boughs from Island Timberlands property.
“The couple later applied for, and received a permit to cut in the area which satisfied Island Timberlands,” said Foreman. “After the permit was issued, they decided that they did not want to consider charges.”
According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations pubic affairs officer Greig Bethel, there are currently no regulations surrounding non timber forest products on Crown land. This includes the likes of cedar boughs, salal, salmonberries and nettle.
“The province does not actively manage for non-timber forest products,” Bethel said in an e-mail to The NEWS Tuesday. “However, there are restrictions on the gathering/harvesting of non-timber forest products, including on First Nations reserves, tree farm licences, leased Crown land and private lands. There are also restrictions in provincial and national parks, protected areas (ecological and special reserves), recreation areas and federal defence lands.”
Additionally, he said a person has to obtain authorization for the cutting and harvesting of tree boughs that are made into wreaths and other decorations.
“It’s been going on for years,” said an unsurprised Bill Veenhof, Regional District of Nanaimo director who represents Spider Lake.
“I know of a couple people who make Christmas wreaths and I know they aren’t harvesting their own cedar to do it.”
But Veenhof said this particular incident is concerning.
“It’s concerning because it happened on his land as opposed to on Crown land,” he said. “Certainly if you see someone doing it you should report it.”
Christensen said neighbours, many with large properties, have been hit hard with trespassing and greenery theft over the last few years.
He’s hoping to bring some awareness to the issue.
“There’s a lot of recreational hikers around and hopefully if they spot this activity they will report it to the RCMP,” said Christensen.