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Illicit Cannabis cultivation in National Parks: Negative for Tourism, Worse for Environment

Illicit Cannabis cultivation in National Parks: Negative for Tourism, Worse for Environment

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) cannabis enforcement program recently released its year-end numbers for the 2021 calendar year, revealing that 2.6 million illegal weed plants were eradicated and 487,270 punds were destroyed.

The CDFW, which investigates illegal cannabis grows as they pertain to environmental damage, said in its Recent report that some of the most serious environmental issues involve unauthorized streambed alterations with water diversions, habitat destruction, illegal use of pesticides and poaching. 

“Illegal operators who are trying to bypass the legal system are a threat to California’s fish and wildlife resources, and a detriment to those legally cultivating cannabis,” said David BessDeputy Director of the CDFW.

Though recent statistics showed that illegal cultivation is moving away from public land to private property, this doesn’t mean that You can grow a lot of weed. have not been discovered by the CDFW’s 68 cannabis enforcement officers and other park rangers.  

In the spring 2021, park rangers in Death Valley National Park stumbled across a massive, illegal grow. The 40-acre weed farm was found in the remote and rarely visited Jail CanyonThe border area between Nevada and California is in the region of.

A park spokesperson said at the time that rangers flew over the area to “photograph the extent and to (hopefully) encourage the growers to abandon the site.” 

According to local media, the illegal grow was one of hundreds found and eradicated in Death Valley over the last decade. Like the CDFW, officials in the area stressed that marijuana grow sites can damage or cause irreparable destruction of the national park for similar reasons: pesticides, clearing of protected lands and diverting water resources.  

Many of the most severe environmental damage occurs in this area.This has been done on public land, with illegal growers having leveled hills, bulldozed Joshua tree trees, and dipped into water tables. 

“The natural and cultural resources in these areas are irreplaceable and invaluable, damaging them for profit shows incredible disrespect to our homeland,” Barbara DurhamIn a statement, he said that he was the Traditional Historic Preservation Officer for Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. The reservation of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe can be found within Death Valley National Park.

Drug Cartels: Many of these grows are believed to be the work highly organized drug cartels who take advantage of the thick forests to hide their operations. Some sites are left undiscovered for years. 

“The real crime is that they are destroying basically America’s public lands, killing the wildlife, and killing our water.”  Kevin Mayer, a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement assistance special agent. “This is stuff that, as you know, it’s not going to repair itself.”

Photo by Mathew Benoit on Unsplash.

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