Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Deep in a private Mendocino Coast forest, trees and brush give way to terraced clearings, miles of crisscrossing black irrigation tubing and campsites littered with cooking pans, empty food and beer cans, sleeping bags and toxic pesticides. They are the remnants of a marijuana garden where a multi-agency law enforcement effort last year seized more than 8,000 plants.
The environmental damage here is a microcosm of what’s happening nationwide as illegal pot cultivation continues to thrive despite decades of eradication efforts. Marijuana operations claiming to be medicinal, and thus legal in California, also are expanding exponentially, largely without regulation.
Marijuana growers have clear cut forests, eroded hillsides, dammed, polluted and sucked dry streams and poisoned wildlife. It’s not uncommon to find dead animals near pot gardens, wildlife officials say.
“This is probably the worst environmental crime I have ever seen in my life. It is literally ripping out the resources of this state,” said California Fish and Wildlife Capt. Nathaniel Arnold, who heads the department’s marijuana enforcement team.