Big marijuana grows moving into foothills, bringing environmental damage by HEATHER HACKING-Staff Writer POSTED: 08/25/2013 09:17:32 PM PDT
While one pot garden isn’t a problem, having many grows in one area adds up, wildlife watchers said.
The public has heard horror stories from the worst scenarios – where people hike into the back woods, haul backpacks filled with chemicals, then hope there isn’t a raid before harvest. Often, Mexican nationals are arrested.
Yet, the trend has been for marijuana growers to move into better growing areas, particularly elevations of 500-1,500 feet, closer to roads and communities. Some might even look like legal grows, and have Proposition 215 signs posted, but too many plants.
Brad Henderson, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, has studied Google Earth satellite images to spot marijuana grows.
“If you look at aerial photographs and see 50 grows in a watershed,” it’s an environmental problem, Henderson said.
Fifty grows isn’t an exaggeration, he noted
Landowners duped, more growers migrate
In areas where marijuana growing looks hospitable, people have been known to come in and lease or pay a low down payment for purchase of a property, then make no other payments, said Clint Snyder, assistant executive officer of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality board.
By the time the landowner checks in, the pot has been grown and the people have left a mess behind.
This becomes a cleanup nightmare for the property owner….
Snyder, of the state Regional Water Quality board, said the very remote grows usually result in a pile of trash left behind – car batteries, fecal matter, leftover chemicals.
To get to these areas and do cleanup is more than agencies can afford. Agencies already know many areas that haven’t been cleaned up. But even more grow sites are unknown, and canisters of chemicals are slowly degrading.
“I’m not trying to overstate this, but we don’t have a clue” how much damage is being caused…We will be paying for these grows for years to come.” Little said.
Reach Heather Hacking at 896-7758, [email protected], or on Twitter @HeatherHacking.