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More thieves steal birch trees in Minnesota, but why are they doing it?

Thousands of the trees have been chopped down illegally across the upper Midwest in recent months.
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They're pretty, they look nice in the home, and they're being chopped down and stolen by thieves to satisfy consumer demand.

We're talking about birch trees, more of which have been found poached by thieves in Minnesota's woodlands this week.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that a witness saw three or four men cutting down birch trees in the Tom Lake area, with around 25 of them seen piled up nearby, along with a blue van.

The release notes that birch trees can only be harvested from public property in Minnesota with written permission or a permit.

Anyone with information about the theft or who knows of any other illegally birch harvesting should call the Sheriff's office on 218-387-3030 or by getting in touch via its Facebook page.

Why are birch trees being targeted?

It's the latest incident of thieves targeting the trees in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and comes a few weeks after a Minnesota man was charged with cutting down 1,200 of them from state land.

The Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen notes that there's an "alarming" and robust demand for birch at the moment, with small trees being a popular supply for craft companies.

"Unfortunately, it seems there is a highly profitable market for these trees and bark," he said. "Conservation officers are reporting an alarming rate of illegal cutting of birch trees across Minnesota and Wisconsin for use in decorating and sales to craft companies.

"This activity is damaging to our wilderness and wildlife, and these trees can take up to a decade or more to regenerate."

The Pioneer Press reports that thefts started being reported in northwest Wisconsin this past fall, with thieves trying to sell small birch poles on to wholesalers, who in turn pass them on to online and retail store sellers.

With their silvery white appearance, the newspaper notes that birch poles and twig bundles have become a popular home decorating item, selling for up to $10 each.

Several counties in Wisconsin and in Minnesota, including the Iron Range area, have been targets for birch thieves, with the Star Tribune reporting that the Wisconsin DNR met earlier this month to discuss how to combat the problem.

But the thefts, which also have an impact on wildlife such as deer and moose who browse in young forests, are difficult to track given the speed at which thieves are able to clip and remove the trees.

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