Bourgon takes us deep into the underbelly of the illegal timber market. As she traces three timber poaching cases, she introduces us to tree poachers, law enforcement, forensic wood specialists, the enigmatic residents of former logging communities, environmental activists, international timber cartels, and indigenous communities along the way.
... this book by British Columbia–based ecology writer Bourgon delves into the complexities of the illegal timber market in an evenhanded manner. Focusing primarily on forestry in the Pacific Northwest, the author explains how timber poaching—although difficult to prosecute—is an offense with significant long-term ramifications to the global economy and the well-being of all living creatures. At the same time, Bourgon’s interviews with poachers (and with police, former loggers, Indigenous communities, and international timber cartels) help readers to be sympathetic to the circumstances. The book is grounded in these interviews and research, but it also dips into narrative nonfiction that puts readers in the mindset of its subjects (e.g., the anxious moment of stumbling onto a recently abandoned poaching site). It might be hard to sell readers on the unsexy crime of stealing trees, but there’s much of interest in this book (high-tech efforts to catch poachers and identify stolen trees; the supply chain by which illegal timber from around the world finds its way into U.S. stores and homes) ... Fascinating for motivated readers.
Bourgon puts herself in the poacher’s shoes, and the result is a refreshing and compassionate warning about the perils of well-intentioned but overzealous environmentalism ... Bourgon paints both sides in sympathetic hues, and she takes a largely neutral stance on who’s right and who’s wrong in the cat-and-mouse game she details. She sees — and does her best to convey — the poachers and their pursuers in an evenhanded manner ... The problem is that the stakes are far from even. On the one hand, unemployed loggers and others who are suffering economically because of stringent enforcement of conservation laws are facing poverty. On the other hand, the damage that poachers are inflicting on forests appears to be, in the grand scheme of things, modest.