[env-trinity] Trinity Journal- Illegal grow sites await cleanup

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu May 9 07:46:36 PDT 2019


Illegal grow sites await cleanup
   - By Sally Morris The Trinity Journal
   - May 8, 2019
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One of several topics discussed during the Trinity Collaborative’s April meeting in Weaverville was the status of cleanup and restoration efforts to reclaim trespass marijuana grow sites on national forest lands often hampered by the presence of toxins considered too lethal for human contact without hazmat gear.

In a report from the Collaborative’s standing cannabis committee, member Susan Bower of Hayfork cited the Integral Ecology Research Center based in Blue Lake as “our best resource on what’s going on with the trespass grows, and in Trinity County they are focused on 2,000 especially egregious sites, all on public land, and that’s not even all. Those are just the most egregious.”

She said Trinity County Sheriff Tim Saxon met with the cannabis committee by invitation, but his focus is primarily enforcement against the most egregious violations of cannabis laws on private land.

“One teaspoon of these biocides kills a mountain lion. We are dealing with very big stuff,” Bower said, asking the larger group for suggestions “on how we can be more effective and successful.”

Six Rivers National Forest District Ranger at Mad River Dan Dill said the Forest Service has law enforcement staff shifting focus “into that time of year,” the marijuana growing season, but he noted many restoration activities at illegal grow sites have been shut down because of the amount of neurotoxins present from the chemicals and pesticides used by illegal growers to protect their crops.

To protect its workers, the Forest Service has mandated medical testing of sites before they are cleared for human entry, “and that’s a huge hurdle to us being more proactive and to our law enforcement taking action, so they focus on catching the bad guys,” Dill said. As for cleanup efforts, “that is a huge medical risk and a nationwide issue,” he said.

“So even to go take out the plants, you better be dressed up (in hazmat suits) while all those herbicides and pesticides are draining into our watersheds,” said Collaborative member Berry Stewart from Junction City, formerly a Trinity County supervisor representing District 4. He added that if more state funding “is coming down for enforcement, we need to be on top of it.”

Dill said the number 2,000 just reflects the high priority sites requiring remediation, adding “that’s only about 10 percent of what’s out there.”

Another Collaborative member, Trinity County Sup. Judy Morris, said “This sounds like the same conversation we had five or six years ago when there was no money for enforcement. However, now we hear Governor Newsom is redirecting resources and our sheriff is fully engaged. There are efforts going on to drum up resources to use ‘up this way’ I’m told, but law enforcement is not letting out of lot of information right now for obvious reasons.”

The IERC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and conservation of wildlife and their ecosystems, has been researching the effects of illegal cannabis cultivation on the environment of Northern California watersheds since 2010, joining in partnerships with the Forest Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and others to fund clean-up and restoration activities on hundreds of illegal grow sites in the region.

Reports on findings and the removal of hundreds of tons of human trash, fertilizers, pesticides and infrastructure including miles of irrigation pipe from public lands are all documented on the IERC website at www.iercecology.org.

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