Marijuana growing areas dangerous even after site is abandoned

By From page A8 | November 15, 2013

Placerville — More than 3,000 pounds of trash, chemicals, plastic sheeting, plastic waterlines and other debris were removed from an illegal marijuana garden in the Eldorado National Forest last September by Forest Service personnel. The clean-up is part of the Forest Service’s ongoing efforts to protect people and natural resources from the adverse effects of illegal marijuana growing activities in the National Forest.

“Catching people who grow marijuana on national forest lands and destroying the plants are important parts of marijuana eradication in the Eldorado National Forest,” said Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree. “Also important, however, is protecting people, natural resources and ecosystems in general from the harm caused by cultivation activities.”

The debris found during the September reclamation activity is typical of what is often found in many other marijuana growing sites. Crabtree says the illegal growers often use large amounts of herbicides, rodenticides, pesticides and insecticides in a typical growing site. These chemicals can cause extensive and long-term damage to ecosystems and poison drinking water for hundreds of miles.

In addition, Crabtree says growers clear native vegetation before planting. Miles of black tubing transport large volumes of water from creeks that are often dammed for irrigation. Use of herbicides and pesticides kill competing vegetation and wildlife. Human waste and trash are widespread. Winter rains create severe soil erosion and wash poisons, human waste and trash into streams and rivers. It is not unusual for personnel cleaning up the sites to find dead wildlife.

Forest Service Law Enforcement Patrol Captain Frank Aguilar warned that if forest visitors come upon an active marijuana garden or one that has been harvested, and appears to be vacant, they should immediately leave the area, travel to a safe place and report the encounter to the nearest Forest Service office, to any member of Forest Service law enforcement or a local law enforcement agency. GPS coordinates, general location of the site and any other site description or landmarks will also be helpful.

Aguilar said that site reclamation is an important part of local, state and federal marijuana eradication efforts.

Frank Mosbacher

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