Pot gardens an 'ecological disaster'

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Cali smoke

Cali smoke

SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST — About five minutes after arriving at the marijuana garden, the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew was already separating pesticides, taking down a tent, rolling hundreds of feet of irrigation hose and putting into trash bags the fresh eggs, coffee, cooking oil and Pringles scattered on a table made out of tree branches and cardboard.

Their job: work with federal agencies to restore this part of the Sequoia National Forest as closely as possible to its natural condition.

The site was discovered two days before. They jump on cleanups quickly because these sites pose all kinds of risks to people and nature — and they don’t want the growers to come back.

“Ecosystems damaged could take decades to repair,” said John Heil, spokesman for the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s pretty much an ecological disaster.”

THE MESSES MADE

Marijuana growers make all kinds of environmental messes.

They often divert streams to provide a constant flow of water to their crops. Hume Lake District Ranger John Exline has seen irrigation systems miles from the actual water source.

Streams can dry up; flooding can increase when growers dam a stream. Soil erosion caused by brush, bushes and trees being removed from sites is also a problem.

Pesticides and fertilizers, some brought illegally from Mexico, can pollute creeks and groundwater, killing fish and harming animals or people who drink it.

“You can’t take a pesticide out of a creek or out of a bear’s belly,” said Athena Demetry, a park restoration ecologist at Sequoia. Animals can also be injured or killed by traps growers set to keep them from eating their crops. Animals sometimes eat fertilizers, too.

Shane Krogen, founder and director of the High Sierra group, said some fertilizers have a chemical that thins blood in deer.

Another main concern is the safety of federal employees, hunters or hikers who might stumble upon a marijuana grove.

Growers have shot people, so armed U.S. Park Police or other security agents accompany federal agencies when they first enter a site and during restoration.

Exline said it’s not so much a question of whether someone will get hurt by a grower but when.

“It’s a cash crop, and it’s like gold,” he said. “They are going to protect their crop.”

Forest fires can also be fueled by pesticides, plastics and propane tanks left by growers. Marijuana gardens can also slow fire fighting efforts if there are armed growers in the area, Heil said.

TUESDAY’S BUST

Authorities discovered two gardens and two campsites less than a quarter mile apart in the Sequoia National Park east of Visalia Tuesday. The site had 3,744 plants, which were immediately removed.

The gardens had an irrigation system with a spigot connected to rows of black hose weaved between mounds of dirt.

As cleanup crews bagged all the trash, they found bottles of pesticides, fertilizers and rodent poison. They also found propane tanks, a shot gun and a .22 caliber rifle.

While searching through trash, Foy held up an unmarked, bent-out-of-shape metal can. He said a bear probably ate the food and could have cut its paws or gums in the process.

The site is relatively small, said Exline. Authorities also found another garden with 22,619 plants about a mile east.

Authorities arrested one suspect but believed three to four others could have been living at the camp, which is near Balch Park. The two gardens were close to Pine Creek.

Patrick Foy, a California Department of Fish and Game warden, quoted the suspect arrested as saying the marijuana garden had been there for three years. He estimated the growers were there for about four months this year and already harvested one crop.

RESOURCES DEPLOYED

The federal agency responsible for the land usually does the cleanup, which can require a helicopter to haul away trash and several security personnel.

It costs the Forest Service $3,000 to $4,000 per acre for a basic cleanup, Heil said. Sometimes cleanups take several days, and if the damage is so extensive the Forest Service has to replant or reroute a stream back to its original flow, it can cost $11,000 an acre, he said.

About 1.7 million marijuana plants had to be taken out of California’s national forests last year, with 283,248 coming from Sequoia and the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The Forest Service has 20 special agents throughout California to find the grow sites, including three in the Sequoia area, Heil said.

The Forest Service focuses on restoration of severely damaged areas, but some of the smaller sites sometimes do not get fully cleaned up because of a lack of funding and personnel.

Exline said it is unique to have a group, like the High Sierra volunteers, offer to clean the area. Krogen said it is important to help federal agencies that are understaffed and underfunded.

“This is America. This is our country,” he said. “If we wait for federal agencies to figure it out how to do this, it’s just not going to happen.”

http://www.bakersfield.com/1439/story/512894.html
 
C

Chimera

And who's at fault for ignorant growers using these irresponsible methods? The government, period.

If cannabis were legal, people would be using inexpensive farmlands that are much more suitable for cultivating cannabis, rather than camping out in national forests diverting streams......

Lay blame where it's due.... legalize cannabis now.

-Chimera
 
C

chiliwalt

And who's at fault for ignorant growers using these irresponsible methods? The government, period.

If cannabis were legal, people would be using inexpensive farmlands that are much more suitable for cultivating cannabis, rather than camping out in national forests diverting streams......

Lay blame where it's due.... legalize cannabis now.

-Chimera
Absolutely. Well stated.

~Chili
 
T

The Argus

And who's at fault for ignorant growers using these irresponsible methods? The government, period.

If cannabis were legal, people would be using inexpensive farmlands that are much more suitable for cultivating cannabis, rather than camping out in national forests diverting streams......

Lay blame where it's due.... legalize cannabis now.

-Chimera
After reading that article, that point of view did not cross my mind, but it's absolutely true! Thanks for that perspective, Chimera!
 
W

Wonderon

Guest
A+ way of looking at it. Just wish the government would catch the drift.
 
D

drfarm

My english bulldog was killed by a maize grower spraying "apache"( think it ws called that) when he cropdusted the neighborhood, kids and all. Had to completely remove bees from the entire area, because the same farm grower kills them every year. My city gets flooded because "people" have dammed the streams and created "lakes" (so horrible) Twisted metal cans are almost everywhere I go, must be those damn potgrowers in the interstate highway medians."Illegal" pesticides are sprayed by half the US if the applicator has not paid local government for a 5 hour class to be a "trained" applicator, ( who knows not to throw away the bottles, they go to special burn facilities)Im sure all the happy wallmart shoppers do that disposal correctly. And OMG, i just realized i know some people who have a shotgun and a .22. But they are not the same guy as the corn farmer who hit some friends and myself with rocksalt when 15 yr old kids stealing corn. This article is unimpressive. I guess we just have to arrest all people that grow things or consume the grown products. Im pretty sure everyone prefers to grow their crops close to home if its left alone. No hell no, Im going to a state park about 1/2 mile rom any road for my zuchinni tomato plot next year. Damn if I want em to get killed or stolen in my yard, its a lot of work. Hope the rangers dont heli out with my prize "big boys" What a load of .....on and on :ohmy:
 
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