Here in California, we’ve sort of become accustomed to hearing stories about large scale illegal marijuana farms being discovered in our state and national parks and forests. The rugged terrain of the San Gabriels and Santa Monica Mountains makes them prime real estate for groups trying to remain relatively unseen – and a few years ago some large scale operations were discovered in our backyard in Malibu Creek State Park.
As with anything that comes with such frequency, it can be easy to become numbed to the statistics and headlines … and because this is also a political issue it’s incredibly easy to descend into an unproductive talking-points shouting match (or if you’re in the L.A. Times Comments Section, even worse). But now we have a way to see firsthand just how damaging these operations are to the natural environment – and hopefully, a renewed inspiration to do something to combat the problem.
I didn’t know this until recently, but the Forest Service has been producing a video podcast series called “Restore” that tackles different issues of conservation, volunteering, urban reforestation programs, and more. Their most recent video tackles the issue of illegal marijuana farms and I have to say – even as someone who’s been paying attention to these stories for a few years – the footage is still shocking.
Last year alone, more than a million illegal marijuana plants were discovered in California alone. Each plant needs around 15 gallons of water EACH DAY – and during these drought years the effect of diverting natural stream flow is even more pronounced. Deputy Forest Supervisor Merv George says the identification and cleanup of these sites is a “major distraction from the mission of the Forest Service,” and if you watch the video you’ll understand why. Not only are these Rangers often put into direct danger from armed “farmers” and booby traps, but they also have to restore wilderness damaged by structures, trash, and incredibly dangerous pesticides – as well as dealing with the effects of that pesticide getting into the ecosystem. Nearly all of the rare fishers that have been tracked in California over the past few years have died from rodenticides, and they’re not eating that stuff from suburban gardens.
This is an incredibly enlightening video – but I must warn you that some of the footage may be shocking for some viewers.
Thanks to the Forest Service for getting this message out.