Trespass Grows and Wildlife on Public Lands

By
Thursday, September 11th, 2014
6,500 gallon cistern in wilderness backcountry. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

6,500 gallon cistern in wilderness backcountry. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

We have seen it all before—boom and bust resource production and extraction in Northern California has been the norm since the beginning of European settlement. From the timber boom to the gold rush, we have now entered the era of the so-called ‘green-rush,’ the high-time of marijuana production.  Marijuana growing in Northern California has traditionally been a cottage industry-scale economy. However, with the recent surge in industrial-scale production has also come an increased awareness of the potentially significant environmental harms to forests, fish, and wildlife from large-scale egregious grows, both on private and public lands.

EPIC has been at the forefront of advocacy and education efforts aimed at exposing the potentially significant environmental damage that can result from industrial-scale, and particularly trespass marijuana production in Northern California. Of particular concern are egregious trespass grows on our National Forests, where paramount concern must be given to the protection of forests, fish and wildlife resources.

Earlier this month, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service aimed at acquiring documents detailing the effects of trespass marijuana growing on public lands, and their impacts on forests, fish, and wildlife. EPIC has requested information regarding the number and size of trespass grows, the status of the Forest Service’s monitoring and enforcement efforts, and the amount and type of toxic chemicals found at individual grow sites. EPIC has also requested information pertaining to how the existence of these trespass grows has hampered the ability of the Forest Service to conduct essential survey and monitoring activities from threatened and endangered wildlife species, most notably the Northern Spotted Owl.

Bear paw print in chemicals. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

Bear paw print in chemicals. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

Of particular concern regarding trespass marijuana production on public lands, is the use of anticoagulant rodenticides that can have a deadly effect not only on the rodents targeted for eradication, but also on other wildlife species that prey on these rodents. Anticoagulant rodenticides can persist in forest ecosystems, and can infect the food chain that supports a myriad of threatened and endangered wildlife species, such as owls, fishers and martens.

EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act request will help to evaluate the monitoring and enforcement efforts of the Forest Service,  provide a window into the amount of illegal and egregious trespass marijuana agriculture on public lands and serve to inform the public about the nature and extent of this problem and its associated effects on threatened and endangered wildlife species, and public lands resources in general.

EPIC is dedicated to combatting these egregious and illegal marijuana cultivation activities on public lands as a significant threat to watersheds, forests, fisheries and wildlife. EPIC is also dedicated to shedding the light-of-day on these activities in order to inform, and engage the public and decision-makers. Trespass marijuana agriculture on our public lands pose an ominous threat to our wild California, and to the essential and irreplaceable resources that our public lands support. EPIC will continue to advocate for small-scale and sustainable marijuana agriculture that honors the importance of our public lands, as well as our water, forests, fish, and wildlife.