Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests 
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Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests 
Posted by CN Staff on June 20, 2013 at 20:09:28 PT
By Felicity Barringer
Source: New York Times
Arcata, Calif. -- It took the death of a small, rare member of the weasel family to focus the attention of Northern California’s marijuana growers on the impact that their huge and expanding activities were having on the environment. The animal, a Pacific fisher, had been poisoned by an anticoagulant in rat poisons like d-Con. Since then, six other poisoned fishers have been found. Two endangered spotted owls tested positive. Mourad W. Gabriel, a scientist at the University of California, Davis, concluded that the contamination began when marijuana growers in deep forests spread d-Con to protect their plants from wood rats.
That news has helped growers acknowledge, reluctantly, what their antagonists in law enforcement have long maintained: like industrial logging before it, the booming business of marijuana is a threat to forests whose looming dark redwoods preside over vibrant ecosystems. Hilltops have been leveled to make room for the crop. Bulldozers start landslides on erosion-prone mountainsides. Road and dam construction clogs some streams with dislodged soil. Others are bled dry by diversions. Little water is left for salmon whose populations have been decimated by logging. And local and state jurisdictions’ ability to deal with the problem has been hobbled by, among other things, the drug’s murky legal status. It is approved by the state for medical uses but still illegal under federal law, leading to a patchwork of growers. Some operate within state rules, while others operate totally outside the law. The environmental damage may not be as extensive as that caused by the 19th-century diking of the Humboldt estuary here, or 20th-century clear-cut logging, but the romantic outlaw drug has become a destructive juggernaut, experts agree. “In my career I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Stormer Feiler, a scientist with California’s North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. “Since 2007 the amount of unregulated activities has exploded.” He added, “They are grading the mountaintops now, so it affects the whole watershed below.” Scott Bauer, of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “I went out on a site yesterday where there was an active water diversion providing water to 15 different groups of people or individuals,” many of them growers. “The stream is going to dry up this year.” While it is hard to find data on such an industry, Anthony Silvaggio, a sociology lecturer at Humboldt State University, pointed to anecdotal evidence in a Google Earth virtual “flyover” he made of the industrial farm plots and the damage they cause. The video was later enhanced and distributed by Mother Jones magazine. Brad Job’s territory as a federal Bureau of Land Management officer includes public lands favored, he said, by Mexican drug cartels whose environmental practices are the most destructive. “The watershed was already lying on the ground bleeding,” Mr. Job said. “The people who divert water in the summer are kicking it in the stomach.” That water is crucial to restoring local runs of imperiled Coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead, which swam up Eel River tributaries by the tens of thousands before the logging era. Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, said, “It’s not weed that drove the Coho to the brink of extinction, but it may kick it over the edge.” By various estimates, each plant needs at least one gallon and as much as six gallons of water during a season. The idea that the counterculture’s crop of choice is bad for the environment has gone down hard here. Marijuana is an economic staple, particularly in Humboldt County’s rural southern end, called SoHum. Jennifer Budwig, the vice president of a local bank, estimated last year that marijuana infused more than $415 million into the county’s annual economic activity, one-quarter of the total. For the professed hippies who moved here decades ago, marijuana farming combines defiance of society’s strictures, shared communal values and a steady income. “Marijuana has had a framework that started in the 1930s with jazz musicians,” said Gregg Gold, a psychology professor at Humboldt State University. “It’s a cultural icon of resistance to authority.” “In 2013,” he added, “you’re asking that we reframe it in people’s minds as just another agribusiness. That’s a huge shift.” It is a thriving agribusiness. Derek Roy, a special agent enforcing endangered species protections for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said, “These grow sites continue to get larger and larger.” Things took off after 1996, when California decriminalized the use of medical marijuana, Mr. Roy said. The older farmers say that as the fierce antidrug campaigns waned and the medical marijuana market developed, newcomers arrived eager to cash in, particularly in the past decade, according to two growers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There is a gold rush,” Mr. Greacen said. “And it’s a race to the bottom in terms of environmental impacts.” Now that Colorado and Washington voters have approved the recreational use of the drug, there is a widespread belief that the days of high prices for marijuana are nearly over. As Mikal Jakubal, a resident of SoHum who is directing a documentary film about Humboldt County’s marijuana business, puts it, “Everyone thinks, ‘This might be the last good year.’ ” That helps fuel the willy-nilly expansion of cultivation, the tearing up of hillsides and the diversions that dry out creeks. The worst damage is on public lands. There, extensive plantings are surrounded by d-Con-laced tuna and sardine cans placed around perimeters by the dozens, Dr. Gabriel said. Mr. Job of the land management bureau said these illegal operations have 70,000 to 100,000 plants; they are believed to be the work of Mexican drug cartels. But small farmers have an impact, too. Mr. Bauer of the State Fish and Wildlife Department said that when he found the water diversion last week and asked those responsible about it, “these people we met with were pointing a finger all over the watershed, saying: ‘We’re not that big. There are bigger people out there.’ ” Federal environmental agents, including Mr. Roy and Mr. Job, have brought two cases to the United States attorney’s office in San Francisco. The office declined to prosecute a case last year, they said. A new one is under review. But, they said, manpower for enforcement is limited. Given federal prohibitions against profiting from marijuana, county officials have a limited toolbox. “We have land-use authority, that’s it,” said Mark Lovelace, a Humboldt County supervisor. He chafes at the county’s inability to establish a system of permits, for fear of running afoul of federal law. His board did just pass a resolution asking local businesses not to sell d-Con. (A representative of Reckitt Benckiser, which makes the poison, wrote a letter of protest.) Mr. Lovelace and others contend that legalizing marijuana would open the door to regulation and put the brakes on environmental abuses. In the meantime, the industry has begun to police itself. Some growers have benefited from a program run by a local nonprofit organization, Sanctuary Forest, that subsidizes the installation of tanks that can store water in the winter, when it is plentiful, for use in dry months. “There may be people who grow pot in our group,” said Tasha McKee, executive director of Sanctuary Forest. “I’m sure there are. We don’t ask that question.” A local group, the Emerald Growers Association, recently produced a handbook on sustainable practices. “There is an identity crisis going on right now,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center in Arcata. “The people who are really involved with this industry are trying to understand what their responsibilities are.” A version of this article appeared in print on June 21, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests and Wildlife.Source: New York Times (NY)Author:  Felicity Barringer Published: June 21, 2013Copyright: 2013 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis  Archives 
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Comment #7 posted by mexweed on June 22, 2013 at 13:32:40 PT:
Hemp for Reforestation: the Good News
"...installation of tanks that can store water in the winter, when it is plentiful, for use in dry months."Say, have you thought of this? There are natural tanks that store water... they're called trees.I agree with those that say legal regulated cannabis will cause lower prices and eliminate the in-it-for-the-money crowd who spoil things, damage the forest etc. Cannabis will be grown in the sunshine when there is no more motive to hide it behind forest. But here's another thing to remember: hemp is an excellent PRECURSOR CROP for trees. Hemp can now be used to help extend and improve the forest rather than harm it!Method to combat erosion, landslides: lay chips and brush ("dead landscape waste") on endangered hillside and gully sites to retard water run-off; weigh down with a propped-up system of old pallets and crates salvaged from cities and/or with logs and branches; then seed that bio-mass with cannabis and let grow. Over succeeding years, seed fast-growing invasive trees like cottonwood, ailanthus etc. (species depending on region, climate, drought conditions). Maybe in a few decades when the water supply is secure, add tourist-beloved but drought-sensitive pines etc.
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Comment #6 posted by MikeEEEEE on June 21, 2013 at 15:00:25 PT
BS detector on max
Somebody with a cigarette butt can destroy the forest, as we have seen.People with respect, common-sense and wisdom, need not read BS.
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Comment #5 posted by museman on June 21, 2013 at 10:10:44 PT
mountains, molehills, and delusions
The 'destruction to our forests' got one hell of a push when the rich people from the 19th and 20th centuries went out and raped them for lumber, paper, and exports to Japan and China. The destruction of the watersheds was well underway before 'pot growers' of any significance were growing on public lands, and the toxifying of the environment was done by DOW chemical, the Rockefeller people, and Monsanto -before anyone had ever heard the name.Yes, it is true that Prohibition and the profit motive drove greedy frackers to unethical practices, but that is fairly recent, but even that is a drop in the bucket compared to all the legal poisoning that has gone on. -and they are only following the 'legal' role models of corporate rape and destruction.The EPA is a joke. I know first hand how they work. Let me tell a story;In the early '80s Mobil Oil came to our sleepy little valley where the Rainbow Farm (the original) was nestled quietly in our communal hipness. They wanted to drill for natural gas. Its a long story, so I'll skip to the end. It was a dry hole. While they were 'cleaning up' we decided to watchdog their actions because our experience (during the long story)had demonstrated how unconscious and untrustworthy they were.The first day, we found them pumping the sludge pond -full of pink oil that resembled transmission fluid- straight into our Smith River! We redirected the pump back into the pond and immediately called the EPA.They said "Oh, we'll deal with it." A day later they pumped it all into a bunch of oil trucks and hauled it away. We thought we'd won, but one of our number decided to follow the trucks to see where they went with the sludge. Where do you think they went? Straight up ti the headwaters of our watershed. Thousands of gallons of toxic waste dumped on the ground at the source of our drinking water. We called the EPA. What do you think they did? They laughed and said there was 'nothing they could do about it.'And so these agents of earth corruption -cops, lawyers, politicians, and wealthy entrepreneurs who think to cash in on the new 'gold rush' are pretty much talking out their ass, and their agenda is not justice, fairness, or the safety of the animals in the woods. Prohibition and the system of laws that spawned it is the problem, not the pot growers.And if the media wasn't bought and sold to the wealthy rulers who dictate almost everyone's beliefs and lifestyles, and people weren't called away from their families so much they can't teach these things, and the schools teach willing slavery and little else, and the churches teach people to submit to false authority, then proper ethics and values would be part of our daily lives and not so unfortunately missing in action.The root causes are not being addressed, and until they are, band aids will not stop the flow of blood.LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #4 posted by Paul Pot on June 21, 2013 at 09:33:46 PT:
Legalize for farmers
This is exactly why we need total legalization. 
The best to place to grow it is in full sun on farm land already in use. 
Not a dark forest. 
Let the farmers grow it and bring money back to rural regions.
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Comment #3 posted by anomalies on June 21, 2013 at 08:51:30 PT:
  Folks, it really pisses me off that this is happening to our forests. The Feds "REALLY" need to say ,,okay,,it's up to the people of the states to be responsible and give us the tools to fix it.If we don't legalize cannabis at all levels, then the destruction of our forests "IS" going to continue. 
  The answer is to regulate cannabis and the way it is grown, like corn or wheat.Set up water usage and land usage with large fines for those who destroy instead of create. 
  Those of you that use the stuff,I don't care for it myself, REALLY need to work against those doing this, showing responsibility for your beliefs and not just a bunch of stoned irresponsible ,,,well ,,, jerks. 
  I don't drink or do drugs, but i'm with you for the legalization of cannabis and your personal freedoms. Speaking as someone from outside your world, You people REALLY NEED TO STAY ACTIVE AND KEEP PUSHING TO LEGALIZE CANNABIS - I SEE YOU GUYS BECOMING COMPLACENT - GET OUT THERE-TALK ABOUT IT-CALL YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN-NOW ( no ones going to do it for you )
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on June 21, 2013 at 08:12:54 PT
environmental damage is one of the worst aspects of our coercive, puritan societyOf course the human toll of death and suffering is probably far worse than the poor forest critters getting hurt.
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Comment #1 posted by HempWorld on June 20, 2013 at 21:01:51 PT
Pot Calling Kettle Black...
Why is Marijuana expensive? (Because of prohibition)
That's why it is lucrative to grow on public or federal lands... duh!This is an exercise in idiocy! Only in the USA, of course!And it is precisely because of what I pointed out several days ago about the sheriff in Lake County Ca, getting bribed by the feds to take all the plantations down.This protects the market and keeps prices high and keeps it profitable to grow on public/federal lands.On and on we go, round and round we go.We are being played!
Pot Farm
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