Lauren Markham examines the potential for tree DNA, and the work of experts like tree geneticist Richard Cronn, to help curb the illegal timber trade and poaching of valuable wood like big-leaf maple and black walnut.

Could he help Huff’s team determine whether there was a genetic link between the felled trees in the Olympic National Forest and the wood that Wilke sold to the lumberyard?

To fight big-leaf maple theft more broadly, law enforcement would need samples from the species’s entire range. The creation of such a database would require hundreds of samplers fanning out across thousands of miles, and the Forest Service still lacked the resources for such an undertaking.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.