DNA science cracks case of stolen walnut trees on Mark Twain National Forest

stack of firewood

ROLLA — A recent investigation of illegal tree harvesting on the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF) that led to the indictment of a southern Missouri man used an uncommon form of evidence — DNA from an illegally harvested log. 

This case marks the first time that tree DNA was used to investigate a federal timber poaching case in the eastern United States.

Timber theft is a common crime on public lands. Black walnut — the tree in this case — is among the largest and longest-lived hardwood tree species growing on the Mark Twain’s 1.5 million acres. 

Its wood is sought after for veneers and furniture, which makes it an attractive target for timber poaching on federal and other lands across Missouri and neighboring states.

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