What You Don’t Know About
Illegal Marijuana Growing
September 18, 2012
I read in the September 13 edition of the Sierra Star that there was another “busted” marijuana farm in our Mountain Area. What a lot of people are not aware of is the environmental impact these large gardens have done to our land, water, natural vegetation, and wildlife in these grow sites.
Illegal grow sites are poisoning California's water supply. Sixty-five percent of California's water supply originates in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Today that water supply is being contaminated by these clandestine marijuana cultivation sites (i.e. pot-farms). A countless number of pollutants damage the streams, including fuel, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, rodenticides, debris from building, and sediment. Chemicals may go directly into our waterways or may leach into the soil to be released into the water throughout the year. The growers use these chemicals to feed and protect their plants. The problem is they use these products, some of which aren’t legal in the US, at application rates far above what is safe without regard to the damage they cause to the water, soil and wildlife.
A current study being completed at the University of California Davis, has found that growers create pesticide(rodenticides) "fences" that will keep any animal, from a mouse to a bear, out of the crop. Predators such as owls, martens, and fishers in turn eat rodents that have been poisoned, with devastating results. These poisons range from anti-freeze around their sleeping areas to DDT, Malathion, and others poisons around their camp and grow sites. Insecticides and rodenticides are placed around the plants which then leach into the ground and the plants leaving unhealthy concentrations on the plants which the end user consumes. This is causing illness and death in wildlife of all types and sizes that could include humans; from those who may use the marijuana to those who hunt, fish, or utilize the water flowing down the hill. Fish and wildlife are not only being poisoned to protect their crops but are also being poached for food.
Other impacts on the environment are pollutants caused by human waste from the camps; the growers dig holes in the ground for their waste. Additionally, they are clear-cutting our trees in a way that is not optimal for the environment and streams are being dammed, diverted or dried for crop irrigation with pesticides and fertilizers being mixed directly in the stream for irrigation distribution. Shane Krogen, of the Environmental Reclamation Team, recently reported to the Central Sierra Watershed Committee that his team often gets called to clean up grow sites. He stated, “On the average grow site he will find: 5,587.5 feet of drip-line and tubing for irrigation; 681 pounds of fertilizer and poisons; and 17 bags of garbage.”
It is time that the people hear the whole story of the true devastation caused by the illegal marijuana fields - not just how much marijuana was ceased.
What You Don’t Know About Illegal Marijuana Growing
When you read about the Illegal Marijuana Farms “raided” or “busted” including in our local areas we hear the number of plants or the street value. One topic is never discussed; the environmental damage caused by the growers practices. The growers use fertilizer, insecticides and rodenticides to feed and protect their plants. The problem is they use these products some of which aren’t legal in the US at application rates far above what is safe without regard to the damage they cause to the water, soil and wildlife.
The fertilizers are poured into pools formed by damming streams which supply water for their drip lines. Fertilizer leaking from these pools soak into the ground moving down hill contaminating ground or surface water. Insecticides used to kill bugs are place around the plants which then leach into the ground and on the plants leaving unhealthy concentrations on the plants which the end user consumes. The poisons (rodenticides) used to kill any animal that eats it are used in high concentrations in and around the growing area. These poisons accumulate in the tissues of predators higher up the food chain killing them also. On top of that they poach local game for food deer, raccoon, bear, bobcat and mountain lion.
At the end of a season or when “busted” these sites contain untreated human waste, garbage, unused fertilizer, insecticides, poisons and thousands of feet of drip tubing. The growers abandon these sites never to return leaving the chemicals to leak into the soil and water ways and the trash littering the ground. The funding for these raids doesn’t cover cleaning up or reclaiming these sites. There are a few service groups that volunteer to help clean these sites.
Shane Krogen, of the Environmental Reclamation Team, recently reported to the Central Sierra Watershed Committee that his team gets called in to clean up grow sites. He stated, “On the average grow site he will find: 5,587.5 feet of drip-line and tubing for irrigation; 681 pounds of fertilizer and poisons; and 17 bags of garbage.”
Where I can go for more information?
Chowchilla/Fresno Rivers Watershed
Chowchilla Red Top Resource Conservation District
Who and How to Contact for More Information:
Project Title: Whisky Ridge Ecological Restoration Project
The Chowchilla Red-Top RCD through the Central Sierra Watershed Committee has been engaging in collaborative public process to help ensure that all parties' interests are represented before direct action occurs on public lands.
Project Title: Upper San Joaquin River Stewardship Council/Watershed Assessment Program
Project Title: Upper Fresno River Watershed Assessment
Project Title: Valuing Watersheds: Mariposa County Process and Perception in CALFED Waters A Case Example: Mariposa County (Mariposa Watershed Assessment)
What is a watershed?
A watershed is the "area of land" where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland, or ultimately the ocean. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes; and cross county, state, and national boundaries.
Where is the Chowchilla Fresno River Watershed?
Why are we interested in watersheds and why are they important?
No matter where you are or live, you are in a watershed, and our individual actions can directly affect it. If your septic system is faulty it can affect your well and even your neighbor’s well (drinking water). If you inadvertently plant invasive weeds in your garden or don’t clear noxious/invasive weeds from your property, they can spread to adjacent wild lands and can compete with the native plants for water. If fire breaks are not created or dead trees not removed this could create a fire hazard which then in turn uses up our water to try and stop the fire. If a flood should occur, eroding stream & river banks can impact your water quality. These are just a few ways our watershed can be affected. Since, watersheds do not follow town, county, state, and national boundaries we need to work together to guarantee future generations clean and useable drinking water. What happens in one area does have a positive or a negative effect on an entire watershed. What we do individually and as a whole watershed community makes a difference in your watershed everyday.
What does the Watershed Coordinator do?
A Watershed Coordinator offers assistance to citizens interested in the voluntary approach to watershed management and conservation. This is done through engaging stakeholders in the watershed and developing committed support for watershed protection and restoration from landowners, local government, state and federal agencies and the local community organizations. The Watershed Coordinator focuses on collecting area information and providing education regarding water conservation, noxious weed eradication, ground water, and fuel reduction through a Watershed Council. This voluntary Watershed Council will be made up of volunteers, community stakeholders, and other interested citizens. The Watershed Council will develop the priorities of each watershed as well as provide local assistance through workshops, a web site, and educational materials for this voluntary approach to watershed management and conservation.
Jeannie Habben receives the 2012 Employee of the Year Award from the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts.
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