Rare tree species illegally harvested within El Malpais National Monument

New Mexico News

GRANTS, N.M. (KRQE) The National Parks Service is seeking information regarding an illegal timber harvest occurring in El Malpais National Monument. The trees in question are alligator juniper trees, and the ones that have been harvested could be hundreds of years old.

Alligator Juniper Tree (Adobe Stock)

Alligator juniper trees are not on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife threatened and endangered species list, but they are considered rare to their slow growth rate, about 0.6 inches in diameter per decade. A seed from the tree can take up to 18 months to mature after pollination. A mature tree has deeply furrowed bark that is broken into square plates giving the appearance of alligator skin, hence the name. An individual tree of this species can grow to be hundreds of years old.

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The illegal harvest of the alligator junipers has impacted the biodiversity of the forest and will take many decades to recover. If you have any information that could aid this investigation, contact the National Park Service Investigate Services Branch tip line at 1-888-653-0009, online at www.nps.gov/ISB or by email at nps_isb@nps.gov.

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